little girl playing with costume jewelry

When Grandma Jennie was an Avon Lady, she sold costume jewelry in addition to beauty products. I remember her pretty displays of earring-and-necklace sets with seasonal themes, like russet leaves for fall and pastel flowers for spring. She even sold Santa Claus brooches and candy cane earrings.

I still have some pieces I got from her, including blue drop earrings, a Christmas bell pin, and a rhinestone butterfly pin that Grandma used to wear on her coat. I seldom wear the jewelry; instead, I display it — along with Mom’s rings and other sentimental pieces — in a jewelry organizer with clear pockets that I hang on my closet door.

But for costume jewelry that I don’t wear and that has no sentimental value, I like to donate it to Dress for Success. An inexpensive but tasteful set of earrings can lend polish to an interview suit. Or a small floral brooch can add a feminine touch to a stern blazer. Dress for Success typically accepts donations only on specific dates and times; call ahead to find out when your local affiliate accepts donations.

Another option for costume jewelry might be an old-fashioned dress-up activity for kids. “Exotic” earrings and necklaces can transform a child into a queen or an old-time movie star. A single earring could complete a gypsy or pirate outfit — leave it to your child’s imagination.

One of the prettiest uses for old costume jewelry is Victorian picture craft; imagine a framed picture created with old jewelry (even broken pieces) on a black velvet background. Typical shapes include bouquets of flowers, trees, or a woman’s elaborate hairstyle or dress. I saw this craft displayed at our local historical society, and it’s a craft that I would like to try. (It’s also a great way to reuse old picture frames.)

So, don’t throw out those unwanted pieces of costume jewelry. Instead, pass it along to someone who can use it, spark a child’s imagination, or use it to create a work of art!

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.