Valentine & Heart Jewelry

by mary February 3, 2015

With Valentine's Day approaching, I thought I would gather together some of the jewelry I've made that features hearts -- turns out I had more than I thought I did, although several pieces have sold . . .

I made this first charm bracelet just recently, with Valentine's Day in mind.  The gemstones, rose agate & red coral, are both said to be symbols of love.  I added a little cupid charm as well.

I made this next charm "Key to My Heart" bracelet earlier this year using little heart & key charms that I picked up at various garage sales & flea markets, plus 3 freshwater pearls.

I also made a "Key to My Heart" necklace -- this one also includes little crystal beads as well as pearls, & heart & key charms.  The pendant is a vintage locket -- inside I added excerpts from "Love Me To-Night" from musci sheets of Bing Crosby's favorite songs.

This next necklace is made with a vintage silver filigree heart & red beads & rosary chain.  The dangle at the back is a red crystal heart shaped bead.

This last necklace has a reversable pendant -- on one side is a fairy, the other side I've filled with resin & watch parts.  I think the pendant may have originally been 1/2 of a locket!

Here's the other side of the pendant . . .

For most of these, I wasn't necessarily thinking about Valentine's Day when I made them -- I guess I just like hears & the color red!

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses . . . to see more of my jewelry, go to


Filed Under: Inspiration

Repurposed/Upcycled Jewelry Made with Lithographed Tin

by mary January 18, 2015

Recently, I got a big "treasure" box of lithograph tin scraps from my husband's cousin, Ken Keiran.  They came from old tin doll houses, candy & cookie containers, trays, etc.  Ken uses them to make the wings for birds that he makes out of barnwood for yard ornaments.  I had asked him if he did anything with the scraps & since he didn't, he said I could have them.

I thought I would see if I could make jewelry out of them. None of the pieces were very big, but they had some really great colors & patterns on them, so I decided to give it a go.

I decided to start by cutting little circular discs of various sizes from some of the scraps, then sanded the edges smooth.  Next, I sorted them out & started playing with different designs & combining them with charms & beads.  Once I had a couple ideas laid out, I punched holes as needed to make a necklace & 3 pairs of earrings.

Here's the necklace . . .

I really like the bright colors & flower patterns on these discs, & thought the silver butterflies for the pendant & dangle at the back made a good complement for the flower theme.

For the earrings, I tried several different combinations of discs, beads & charms . . .

One of the things I really like about using these tin discs is that they make really light-weight earrings.

I have quite a few discs left, & am thinking about seeing how they would work in a charm bracelet, & combining different complementary patterns next.  I'm also going to start looking for lithograph tin items the next time I am treasure-hunting at a flea market or garage sale!

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses! 


Filed Under: Inspiration | Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Chasing and Repousse'

by mary November 24, 2014

Today was the final day of my chasing and repousse' class at the Des Moines Art Center this semester; & I'm happy to say I was able to complete 2 pieces!

For those not familiar with chasing and repousse', both are metal-working techniques in which malleable metal is shaped by hammering.  Repousse' involves hammering from the back to raise the design, while chasing is used to refine the image on the front by sinking the metal.

The class was taught by Sheena Thomas, one of the owners of Elements Ltd. here in Des Moines & a great instructor.  It was absolutely one of my best classes I've taken, although I was a bit nervous about it at first.

The first piece I made was inspired by a trilobite fossile I saw at this fall's Gem, Mineral & Fossil show.  Here's a picture I took of the trilobite fossil . . .

and here's the pendant I created . . .

I used liver of sulpher to get the rich patina that you see -- I especially love the way it highlights the detail of the hammering!  I plan to hang it on leather cord -- either brown, black or blue -- I haven't decided which yet.

The 2nd piece was based on a gingko leaf . . . here's a picture of a gingko leaf I found on the internet . . .

and here's the pendant I created . . .

I used liver of sulpher again on this one to get the rich patina -- I'll hang this one from leather as well.

One of the things that really surprised me about chasing & repousse' was the number of times you had to hammer the front & back (& anneal the metal -- in this case, copper -- in-between) to get the design you're wanting.  It was challenging at times, too, figuring out just which chasing tool to use to get the effect you want. 

That's all for today . . . as always, thanks for reading and for supporting small businesses!



Filed Under: Classes & Favorite Books | Inspiration

Charmed Bracelets by Tracey Zabar

by mary October 26, 2014

I've always loved charm bracelets -- both making them & wearing them.  I got my first charm bracelet when I was in grade school (& still wear it), & one of the first things I made when I started making jewelry was a charm bracelet.  I love the jingling sound they make when you wear them & I love that each one tells a story.

So I was thrilled when one of my instructors introduced me to charmed Bracelets by Tracey Zabar. 

Tracey's book covers the history of charm bracelets, noting that charm bracelets, in one form or another, can be found in almost every era of jewelry history.  Ancient peoples, for example, often wore lucky charms & other amulets to ward off bad spirits. 

She also covers types of charms & charm bracelets, & includes lots of pictures of charm bracelets from over the years.  In one chapter, she talks about charm bracelet themes -- I found this one in particular to be "up my alley", since almost all of my charm bracelets are theme-based -- including spiritual, lucky/game, travel, animal, political, holiday, etc.  Finally, she includes some advice on where to find charms & some other ideas for how to use charms.  For anyone

Here are just a few pictures of some of the theme-based charm bracelets I've made.

Spiritual theme . . .

Political theme . . .

Animal lover theme . . .

Travel theme . . .

And another travel theme . . .

And here's one I did for a photographer friend . . .

And here's one with a luck/game theme . . .

One last example . . . a holiday theme, in this case Halloween . . .

All in all, this book was a really fun read for me & inspired me to think of new themes to use in my charm bracelets!

To see more of my charm bracelets, check out my website at

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses!


Filed Under: Classes & Favorite Books | Inspiration

October 12 Bead Bazaar & October 18 Gem, Mineral & Fossil Show

by mary October 19, 2014

The last 2 weekends have been a great time for finding gemstones & beads!

Steve & I attended the Des Moines Bead Bazaar at the State Fairgrounds last Sunday afternoon & came away with some great finds!  Starting from the top right & moving clockwise, is an ocean jasper, turitello agate (looks like fossil pieces), canyon jasper bead, brazilian agate bead, & botswana agate; the pink stone in the middle is pink rhodonite.

We also picked up some strings of small jet, black onyx & shell beads.

And I even won something in a drawing (I almost never win anything) -- this brass anaclastic cuff bracelet!  Anaclastic forming is something I would really like to try sometime!

I was pretty happy with everything I found!

Then, yesterday, we went to the Des Moines Gem, Mineral & Fossil Show -- also at the State Fairgrounds.  This show only comes once a year in October & is my very favorite gem show!  They also have some of the most amazing fossils! 

Although I didn't find as many gemstones there, I am especially excited about the ones I did pick up -- including the following, starting in the lower left corner & going clockwise -- 2 fabulous boulder opals, fossilized coral & this amazing bumblebee jasper!

I also picked up 4 small oddly shaped gemstone pieces for only a quarter each!  I have no idea what I'll do with them yet, but for a quarter each, I'll feel comfortable experimenting!

While we were there, I also saw these really cool trilobite specimens, & decided a trilobite would make a great model for the chasing & repousse class I'm taking at the Art Center.  The exhibitor was kind enough to allow me to take pictures -- check this guy out!  I am really looking forward to starting to work on him tomorrow at class!  I'll be sure to post a picture of my piece when it's done.

An amazing 2 weeks here in Des Moines -- I couldn't be happier with all that I found!

And, as always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses!

And to see my jewelry, check out my website at!


Filed Under: Inspiration | Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Halloween Jewelry

by mary October 12, 2014

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays -- especially for decorating & for holiday-inspired jewelry! 

Fortunately, there are quite a few vintage Halloween Cracker Jack, gumball & vending machine charms available to work with -- including metal, plastic & even celluloid!

Here are some of my favorite pieces . . .

This first charm bracelet is made with pencil topper charms from the Universal Studios monster series, as well as a King Kong charm.  It's hanging around a plastic Marx wolfman model.

This next one is made with pink, silver & black beads, & a new old stock (NOS) Halloween charm I got at my favorite bead shop in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin.

I really like the orange covered chain & the orange pumpkin charm on this next charm bracelet.  I used a black wash on the skull charms to give them a more spooky look!

This last charm bracelet features the really tiny charms made of celluloid & other early plastic including a rate, skull, & devil, plus a little glass dice bead.  (I apologize for the blurriness of the picture -- this was before we finally purchased a good DSLR camera.)

I've also made some fun Halloween earrings, including these witch earrings made with styrene witch charms.  I've made similar earrings with styrene devil & skeleton charms!

And just recently, I made these dangling skull earrings.  I think they should be really fun to wear!

That's a sampling of some of my finished Halloween jewelry.  Right now, I'm working on a skull ring that I made using lost wax casting -- hope to have it done in time to wear for the holiday!

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses!  To see more of my jewelry, check out my website at  And have a spooky Halloween!


Filed Under: Inspiration

Talk Like a Pirate!

by mary September 28, 2014

I made this charm bracelet the other day, after being reminded that September 19 was Talk Like a Pirate Day! 

I first learned about Talk Like a Pirate Day several years ago when a co-worker celebrated it at the Iowa Department of Human Services, where I worked.  After the first year, it became an annual tradition in the office.

According to the Talk Like a Pirate Day official website, a couple of friends came up with the idea in 1995.  Then, in 2002, they contacted Dave Berry about it & he mentioned it in his nationally syndicated column.  After that, what once was a "goofy idea celebrated by a handful of friends" became an international phenomonon & "the rest is history". 

For more information about Talk Like a Pirate Day, visit the website at  The site includes more on the history, news coverage from around the world, Pirate FAQ, pirate advice & games, & a newsletter you can subscribe to!

So, when I was thinking about Talk Like a Pirate Day, I remembered I had several Cracker Jack/gumball charms of pirates as well as skulls & crossbones (often pictured on pirate flags).  After locating them, I searched for more charms that might be associated with pirates & came up with the pirate ship, ship's wheel, parrot (made famous in Treasure Island by Long John Silver who had a parrot on his shoulder), & gold coin.

To finish it off, I added red & black beads, since red & black were the background colors for pirate flags.  In the end, I thought to turned out to be a fun charm bracelet!

So Avast & Ahoy Me Hearties . . . and remember to celebrate Talk Like A Pirate Day each & every September 19!


Filed Under: Inspiration

Party Time!

by mary September 14, 2014

With the 2014 elections only a couple of months away, tt's that time of the season again to show your party spirit -- and, what better way to do it, then with a Donkey or Elephant charm bracelet!

I was inspired to make this Republican charm bracelet after finding a Nixon for President pin with a large gray elephant hanging from it (he's the one at the center bottom of the picture!

According to the Republican Party, the elephant originated as the GOP symbol during the 1860 campaign as a symbol of strength.  It was further popularized by political cartoonis Thomas Nast. 

For some reason, elephant charms are much easier to find than donkey charms, so I am always thrilled when I can find donkeys -- especially those with the large ears like the silver donkeys I used in this Democratic charm bracelet.

Presidential candidate Andrew Jackson was the first Democrat to be associated with the donkey symbol in 1828, & political cartoonist Thomas Nast is credited with making the donkey the recognized symbol of the Democratic Party after he used it in a cartoon in Harper's Weekly in 1870.  Democrats see the donkey as smart & brave.

When I found red, white & blue donkeys, I decided to make one with similarly colored beads.

Interestingly, the colors red & blue were first used in the 1976 election, when NBC debuted the first election map on TV,  However, at that time, they used red for states that voted for Carter (Democratic Party) & blue for states that voted for Ford (Republican Party), while other stations used different color-coding.  It wasn't until the 2000 presidential election when the NY Times & USA Today published color election maps that it was firmly established that Republicans were the red party & Democrats were the blue party.

So, as the election season heats up, it's time to think about putting on your red Republican Party or blue Democratic Party jewelry!

As always, thanks for reading & for supporting small businesses!


Filed Under: Inspiration | Treasure Hunting/Favorite Finds

Why Pauline's Jewelry Box?

by mary April 13, 2014

When people see that I've called my jewelry "Pauline's Jewelry Box", they often ask if my name is Pauline, so I thought I'd introduce the real Pauline -- my mother, Pauline Louise Kuphall Nelson.  She was born on February 2, 1910, the youngest of 11 children. 

Here she is with her parents & most of her brothers & sisters. 

And, here she is at her confirmation, with her brother Bill.

She married my father on May 29, 1950 -- Here they are the day they got married. 

And, here they are on their 10th anniversary (that's me in the middle -- I would have been about 7 1/2 at the time).


My mother was a constant source of love & support; she & my dad made me who I am & inspire me still.  I chose to call my jewelry "Pauline's Jewelry Box" to honor her & her memory. 


Filed Under: Inspiration

Icicle Neckace

by mary May 16, 2013

I took this picture from our bedroom window early in the morning after one of the last thaws in March of this year.  The day before had been very warm, causing the snow to melt from the roof onto and off the awning.  Not long after I took the picture, it started to warm up again, and the icicles dripped and slid to the snow below.  I love the fragile lacy look of the icicles hanging there almost defying gravity, and thought about how I might capture some of that look in a necklace.  That idea stayed dormant until a week or so ago, when I decided to give it a go, using some of the crystal chandelier pieces we'd found the year before in a dumpster (see earlier blog about our dumster diving).  Here's how the necklace turned out.


Filed Under: Inspiration

About the author

Pauline's Jewelry Box was founded by Mary Nelson in 2012 in Des Moines, Iowa.  I chose the name Pauline's Jewelry Box because my mother's name was Pauline & I have many fond memories of looking through jewelry box & playing with her jewelry

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