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What to Do with Jewelry You Never Wear: Reinvent, Repurpose or Recycle Your Jewelry

Jewelry usually carries sentimental value, but over time, you may find that there are pieces you never wear. This may be because someone gave it to you and it wasn't something you'd ever wear in the first place, or you just quit loving it. Maybe you've decided that you want to downsize your jewelry collection. It’s a shame to leave all that beautiful jewelry in a drawer. Here are some suggestions for either wearing it again or getting it somewhere to be enjoyed by someone else.

Your first step is to go through your jewelry and place it in categories:

  • Keep it as-is
  • Keep, but needs repairs or make some changes
  • Get rid of it

Keep It As-Is

Well, this is easy. Pop it back into your jewelry box. If you're feeling very energetic, take the higher end pieces to a professional jeweler who can make sure stones are snug and give everything a proper cleaning. Then store each piece safely but wear it often.

Keep It, But...

Whether you want to keep it for yourself or give it to a loved one, you have several options.

Upcycle into a New Piece

  1. DIY Projects: Get creative and turn old jewelry into something new. Combine elements from different pieces to create a unique piece of jewelry. I love this idea so much that I designed a couple of jewelry making party options that you can check out if you're in the Austin area. If you're not nearby, let me know if you'd be interested in booking an online consult with me.
  2. Add New Elements: Along the same lines as a DIY project, you might simply update a piece of jewelry by adding something like beads, charms or chains to the piece.
  3. Transformative Changes: Turn a necklace into a bracelet or a pair of earrings into a pendant. Maybe a long chain can be worn as a belt or looped several times into a bracelet. Think outside the box. Look online for ideas and inspiration.

Take it to a Professional Jeweler

  1. Redesign and Customization: A professional jeweler can help you redesign old pieces into something that fits your current style. This might include resetting stones, altering the design, or combining multiple pieces into one.
  2. Repairs and Refurbishments: Sometimes, all a piece needs is a little TLC. Jewelers can repair broken clasps, resize rings, or clean and polish items to make them look brand new.
  3. Custom Creations: Work with a jeweler to create a custom piece using the materials from your old jewelry. This is an especially good option for pieces of fine jewelry that might require removing and reusing gemstones or melting down metal. It requires specialized skill and tools. This can be a meaningful way to preserve the sentimental value while giving it a fresh look.

Get Rid of It

Whether you want to keep it in the family, donate it to a good cause or make some money off of it, you have loads of options for getting rid of jewelry. 


  1. Charitable Organizations: Some charities accept jewelry donations, which they can offer to their clients who need them or would cherish them. Look for organizations that support causes you care about, such as women's shelters, dresses and jewelry for prom for those with financial needs, or organizations that find permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness.
  2. Thrift Stores: Donating to thrift stores can help support community programs and give your jewelry a second chance to be loved by someone else.
  3. Fundraisers and Auctions: Donate your pieces to fundraisers or charity auctions. This can help raise money for a good cause and provide someone with a unique piece of jewelry.
  4. Schools, Programs and Reuse Shops: You might want to check with an art teacher at a school or college. They might be able to incorporate used jewelry into class projects or students can use them in art projects. Reuse shops might be nearby and have a need for old jewelry. Call ahead and make sure these spots take old jewelry.

Give Away to Friends or Family

  1. Sentimental Gifts: Consider giving your jewelry to friends or family members who might appreciate it. A piece that no longer suits your style might be perfect for someone else and can become a treasured heirloom. I read “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning,” and then watch the series that is based on the book. It explains that it’s perfectly okay to ask friends and family over and ask them if they’d like some of your jewelry. Just make sure that anything you don’t want to part with is in a separate (hidden) stash!
  2. Special Occasions: Jewelry makes for a thoughtful gift for birthdays, anniversaries, or other special occasions. Personalize the gift by sharing the story behind the piece. If you have a picture of grandma wearing the piece you could include it with a note about how it was passed down to you and now, you're passing it to another generation.

Sell or Trade

  1. Consignment Shops: A good option for higher-end pieces is a consignment shop. They can sell the jewelry for you in exchange for a percentage of the sale.
  2. Online Marketplaces: Platforms like eBay, Etsy, Facebook Marketplace or specialized jewelry resale sites can help you reach a broader audience. Make sure that you provide clear photos and detailed descriptions to attract buyers. Remember the shipping costs involved so you price the sale correctly.


  1. Metal Recycling: Precious metals like gold and silver can be melted down and reused. Look for reputable metal recycling services or jewelers who offer this service. A note about metal for money: if you want to get money for the metal that is left over from a jewelry makeover, please understand that it will likely be a small amount of money. The price of an ounce of gold might be $1,200 or $2,400, but the weight of the metal in a ring or bracelet is often miniscule. Occasionally, when I worked in the jewelry repair shop, a customer who had a ring sized down insisted on getting that tiny section of metal that I cut out to be returned to them. I suspect those tiny pieces of silver or gold are still sitting in someone's jewelry box.
  2. Gemstone Recovery: Stones from old jewelry can be removed and reused in new settings. A professional jeweler can assist with this process to ensure the stones are not damaged.
  3. Eco-Friendly Disposal: If a piece is beyond repair and not suitable for recycling or repurposing, try to dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way. Avoid throwing it in the trash where it can contribute to landfill waste.

A note about working with metal: Often, even if a piece is marked, it can be a mystery what sort of metal is actually in that vintage or retro jewelry. That’s why I won’t take on a project like this. I don’t know what other metals might be in that alloy. Check with a professional and let them take a look at the pieces. You might have to do some serious searching to find someone to melt down the old jewelry, cast a new piece and finish the piece. Do your homework and make sure you find someone who knows what they are doing. And please be understanding if some jewelry makers turn you down along the way. The job takes different skill sets and equipment along the process. There is always that looming unknown in what the metal is truly comprised of that could derail the end product.


Your unworn jewelry doesn’t have to gather dust. By donating, gifting, upcycling, or recycling, you can give new life to these pieces and potentially bring joy to others. Whether you choose a DIY approach or seek the help of a professional jeweler, there are loads of ways to reinvent and repurpose your jewelry. Embrace the chance to be creative and sustainable with your jewelry collection.

If you enjoyed this topic, you might want to explore some other posts:
Fast Fashion in the Jewelry Industry 
Five Considerations Before Buying Jewelry for Someone 

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