Morocco, Upcycling, Vintage Jewelry

Never Trash, Always Treasure – Why I Love Upcycling Materials in Jewelry Making

Oddly, I didn’t always upcycle materials into my jewelry making. This took me decades to begin doing, even though I regularly, creatively upcycled objects in my daily life. I’m a solutions-loving person, so I enjoy finding ways to make new, needed things using discarded things. I’m also fairly environmentally conscious, so I don’t like to be wasteful

With making jewelry to sell to consumers, my mindset was different. I know a lot of people dislike wearing used items. Also, even though many acquaintances have commented that I can “just find beads and materials at thrift stores to use” that’s not usually the case. I use quality materials, precious and semi-precious metals, real gemstones and pearls, as opposed to the plastics and often toxic metals found in discarded fast fashion jewelry in thrift stores.

Quality Thrift

Since moving to Morocco a decade ago my mindset slowly shifted. Initially I was thrilled whenever I found loose vintage silver and enamel beads to use in my bracelets and necklaces. I knew this was something consumers could appreciate – quality vintage/antique/collectable pieces. And that’s also when I began reselling unique vintage Moroccan pieces.

A lot of the jewelry sold in Morocco for locals and tourists are new pieces. There are plenty of older pieces for collectors and those who appreciate a well-turned thing. But then they are heaps of vintage pieces in neighborhood jewelry shops. These pieces are sold to the shop by individuals, usually to buy something newer as a gift or if the jewelry owner is in need of cash. The pieces can sit for years. Maybe eventually they will be melted down to make new pieces.

These vintage pieces are usually so pretty. They were thoughtfully, masterfully made and classic in style. There are just too many of them. Everyone’s grandma has at least one or two and I see heaps in some shops.

A New to You Idea!

One day, as I was hiking the many stairs at the Ouzoud waterfall, doing a little workation, something in the creative back corner of my mind clicked. 

A lovely natural treasure and major tourist hot spot, there are also many great jewelry shops at the falls. In one shop, I had been poking around in a bowl of vintage brass rings that are a common Moroccan style. I thought about how I loved some of the filligree and cut-out designs of the rings, but not the overall shape of the rings. Away from the shop, half way up the notoriously good climb, I realized what I could do! I could cut out the portions of rings I like and reuse them in new pieces.

Quickly enough I found many ways to rework what to me are abandoned pieces of art. For me this process works great.

Upcycling vintage jewelry into new pieces means:

  • Buying materials from the local economy, where sales are greatly needed.
  • Using materials that have already been dug from the earth and processed, instead of new items.
  • Showcasing little-known heritage and art from Moroccan culture.
  • Pushing my own creative abilities.
  • Making beautiful, often one-of-a-kind jewelry!

Don’t worry, I don’t cut everything up! I still sell more unusual vintage items in my Etsy shop, leaning towards more commonly made pieces to rework.

You can find most of my upcycled pieces in the Cisse Collection, where I also use recycled sterling silver and traditional West African recycled glass beads.

And learn more about my creative process by following my Instagram, where I regularly babble about making, inspiration and life in Morocco.

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