Refashioning Cheap Earrings

earrings 24aIs there anything more satisfying than taking a cheap piece and making it look great? No, no there isn’t. That is the most satisfying of craft projects.

(Although I will allow that perhaps- just perhaps- making a total masterpiece from scratch is even more satisfying).

When I saw these brown string earrings with dull brown hearts, I knew they had potential. They just needed a little tweaking to achieve their better selves.

I sense a lot of potential here

I sense a lot of potential here

I originally spotted these babies at a great accessories store in my neighborhood. It’s great because everything is $1.99.

I’m not a shop owner, but even I know that commercial rent in Queens isn’t nothing. I assume the owners must bulk order straight from AliExpress- how else would you explain these prices?!

ETA: Well what do you know, they have been raided and closed down. Must not have been paying rent after all! 

A couple more $1.99 items from there:

I used the fleur-de-lis bracelet to make my first-ever mold, and used the cuff as a mandrel to shape my resin bracelets. Also, I just like wearing it. Note that it says "Pretty in PUNK"!

I used the fleur-de-lis bracelet to make my first-ever mold, and used the cuff as a mandrel to shape my resin bracelets. Also, I just like wearing it. Note that it says “PRETTY IN PUNK”!

I picked up the earrings because I knew I wanted to tweak and play around with them, but didn’t have a particular plan. I worked it all out on the go, which is the most fun way to do things.

Materials I used

Materials I used; I actually used a different resin brand, but that’s okay, they would both work for this.

The materials I used were:

  • Mold making silicone (Amazing Mold Rubber by the Alumilite Corp.)
  • Red paint (Crimson Red by Artist’s Loft)
  • PearlEx Powder (Aztec Gold)
  • Epoxy resin (EasyCast)
  • SuperGlue
  • Red heart beads (or any other appropriately dangly bead)
  • Headpins
  • Bronze ball beads
  • Red seed beads
  • Gold string

Step 0. Prepping the earring

The first thing to go were the boring brown hearts. I popped them out (with difficulty) with my X-acto knife (which is dangerous and not recommended because you can hurt yourself). In retrospect, something like a butter knife would have been safer.

But I didn’t toss them- because they can still make themselves useful. How? I used them to create silicone molds in order to make new, better hearts!

The brown hearts will make molds

The brown hearts will make molds

Next, I wanted to get rid of that ugly brown string. Cutting it away revealed a very nice bronze structure underneath. I also disconnected the top parts from the bottom parts, to make it easier to work with.

Naked and taken apart

Naked and taken apart

I will write something about my mold experiments (and the brands I tried) soon, but for now, here’s a picture of the silicone rubber mold I made for the hearts. The brand is Amazing Mold Rubber by the Alumilite Corp.

A bit roughly hewn but functional. Also pink.

A bit roughly hewn but functional. Also pink.

Because silicone is so expensive, I combined the heart molds with another mold making project, so there are in fact several different molds in this piece here.

I know it doesn’t look quite right, but that’s only because the edges are jagged. They really are heart-shaped, I promise!

(also, that pale pink is how this silicone brand comes out by default. Were they trying to go for pink baby flesh? I just don’t know).

Step 1. Making red and gold hearts using epoxy resin

Mixing up a batch of resin

Mixing up a batch of resin

Red paint and gold powder mixed into resin

Red paint and gold powder mixed into resin

I mixed up a batch of resin, and colored it with acrylic paint and PearlEx gold powder. I only needed a small volume because the hearts are so small.

I found that sometimes acrylic paint doesn’t blend well and leaves streaks. One good way to achieve an even color is to pick up a dollop of paint with a toothpick and mix with a small drop of resin until it’s all one consistency. Then blend in the rest of the resin.

For PearlEx powders, just stir with a toothpick or plastic stirrer until completely incorporated- and look out for bubbles. I have found that a startlingly small amount is enough to give a solid gold color. Speaking of color, don’t you just love the blood-like shade of red?

Improvisational use of a pencil

Improvisational use of a pencil

I poured red resin into each heart mold, and dripped a dollop of gold with a pencil tip.

I was kinda winging it and wouldn’t be able to see the final color until the hearts were de-molded, but that’s the fun of it. Now we wait!

I de-molded them the next day, but waited for several days before I tried sanding the edges, just to make sure they were rock-solid.

Step 2. De-molding and sanding the hearts

earrings 9

They came out very nice. I ended up making two batches- one with more gold, one with less, so I could have options. Here are the more-gold ones.

earrings 10

You can see they have rough edges because I was sloppy getting the red resin in there, and then dripped the gold resin all over the place. Such is the nature of the beast. Good thing resin is relatively easy to clean up when it’s dry! Makes up for being such a pain in the ass when it’s wet.

No sharp edges after this treatment

No sharp edges after this treatment

I used manicure scissors to trim the rough edges, then a nail file to sand, then a 2000-grit sandpaper to buff, and finally a cloth to polish. Be careful not to scuff the tops- resin pieces have a nice natural shine that you don’t want to mess up!

earrings 12

This is looking good and polished- no sharp edges!

earrings 13

Gluing the hearts in place


I then used SuperGlue to attach the hearts back onto the earring frames.

Step 3. Attaching the dangly glass heart beads

I was committed to keeping this a cheap project, only using materials I already had. Luckily, these cute little heart beads have been lying around forever, and they were perfect. I put them on headpins, and wire-wrapped to the earring.

earrings 15

I wire-wrapped the hearts using a headpin and round-nosed pliers


Step 4. Prettifying the rest

Starting to come together!

Starting to come together!

This is starting to look really good now, so I was debating whether to leave it as is. Those empty bronze bars give it an unfinished look though, so in the end I decided to cover them up with some beads. I used a gold thread to attach bronze and red seed beads to keep the color scheme simple (and because I already had them- remember, frugality is the theme of the day!).

earrings 17earrings 18earrings 19earrings 20

Make sure to keep tight and straight as you bead. For the last knot I made it a double, and used superglue to secure.

By the way, it will make things TONS easier to bead if you stiffen the string ends with glue.

earrings 22After beading, the earring was still looking a little thin. I went and added a weave of gold string where the brown string used to be. I did say I made it up as I went along!

Nothing tricky here, just threading it through the loops, then tying off, and securing with glue in the back. Superglue is the other theme of the day!

The string was the finishing touch, though. I feel like I could have kept going, adding dangly bits and chains and rhinestones, but there is a fine line between Bling and Way Too Much.

Step 5. Stand back and admire

earrings 24aThe final result! Aren’t they just adorable now?

I love comparing before and after.

earrings 24cearrings 24b


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