making renaissance Jewelry

Recreating History!

I love crafts and I love history because of it's fascinating stories. Making Renaissance Jewelry gave me a chance to explore both!

After one trip to the Renaissance Festival, I became obsessed with making period jewelry. I looked for a craftsman there that sold the likes but… Alas! None were to be found!

So I studied and researched what renaissance jewelry looked like. Well, the first thing I noticed was that the stones were not cut or faceted but polished with a rounded top, flat bottom and set on a small metal frame. This is referred to cabochon style.

Stone colors were vivid. Usually one large precious stone would be chosen as a basis on which the jeweled piece was designed. Quite often they were accented with enameled gold.

Pearls were not strung together side by side but each one was suspended on a metal pin looped on each side and strung together that way.

Recreating the Historic Design Without a Royal Budget

So, I started to collect the items I could use to duplicate the renaissance style. I was able to find cabochon frames or pendants easily at craft stores and on the web as well as pins, pearls, crystals and chain. But jewels? Hmmmm! I am on a limited budget so this was a problem.

I went back and read again on the history of renaissance jewelry and keyed in on a great word…enamel! Then I rummaged through my collection of fingernail polish (well, that’s enamel, right?) and found some vivid colors that were perfect. I filled some of the cabochon frames with the fingernail polish and left it dry. Then I covered it with a thick coat of clear. They came out beautiful and the shine even gives them the allusion of being rounded just like a stone.

Then I got crazy and started to mix colors to create an opalescent appearance. I used a toothpick to swirl in gold or silver. This was wonderful and the possibilities are endless. You have to try it!

To follow the renaissance style, I colored one large cabochon frame and four small connector frames for connecting the pearls with the same color.

To string the pearls, I used pins that had one loop and after sliding the pearl on, cut the pin with enough left to create a loop on the other side with the round-nose pliers. Do this to each pearl and then connect them together. You can see that I used one pearl on each side of the large cabochon, then one small connector cabochon, a string of 3 pearls on loops with a string of 4 pearls hanging, another small connector cabochon and then enough chain so that it hangs to the right length.

Basic Jewelry Making and More Tips

If you are new at this and feel a little lost just check out Basic Jewelry Making for details on the basic building blocks and how to loop wire for connections.

For an additional embellishment I added a bead cap to the end of the chain.

For the first one (See the red one) I kept it simple. But the second necklace I added some hanging crystals to match the enamel.

Also, I used fresh water pearls (imitation of course) because I thought that gave them a little more of an old look.

Now once you start to look at cabochon frames you may come across the clear or colored faux gems that fit inside the settings (called cabochons). You’ll wonder why I opted for fingernail polish enamel instead of using these. Well, long story short, I had a hard time finding the gems to be the exact size of the frames and fingernail polish made it too easy. So, that’s it. If you find what you are looking for in a cabochon gem then that may be the best option for you.

For a few more ideas that expand on this one check out Making Cabochon Jewelry (like this fleur de lis above). Well, I sincerely hope you try this project. Then lace up your dress, catch the next coach and escape back in time!