Product Design

Make This Geometric Necklace from Something You Throw Away Every Week

August 12, 2016

I’ve always loved big jewelry. Bold conversation pieces that can’t go unnoticed. Like the necklaces I used to see walking past Anthropologie’s window displays on my way to work. I loved seeing simple materials mixed in unexpected ways: chain with lace or ribbon with stones. And I loved how the background displays turned reclaimed and odd objects into something new, something just really really pretty.

Lookin' right.

Flash forward a few strolls past such displays, when I decided to make my own necklace from upcycled materials. I had a vision: circles draped in layers with a big, organic feel to it. For a while I debated over what material to use to: Shower rings? Too big. Metal rings? Too heavy.

Geometries on geometries. #makesomething #pattern #jewelerslife

A photo posted by Amanda Eggert (@amandaeggert) on

Then one day while pouring a glass of milk it hit me. Those plastic rings around the tops of milk jugs! (Call it fate—I'm from Wisconsin… you know, the Dairy State.) I enlisted the help of extended family to collect rings from each jug of milk they bought. I loved that I could take something inconsequential, something that would otherwise be thrown away, and turn it into art.

Shop the Story

Feeling inspired to help save the earth with your jewelry? Here’s a simplified version of the necklace, and how to make it yourself:

What you’ll need:

Chain, jump rings in assorted sizes, glue, milk jug rings, and all the fixins. Photo by Bobbi Lin

And how to make it:

1. Cut strips of fabric 3/4 of an inch wide and 14 to 16 inches long. You’ll need one strip to cover each milk jug ring.

Left: The necklace you're making; Right: Cutting strips of fabric, to start. Photo by Bobbi Lin

2. Wrap each ring with a single strip of fabric until it's completely covered.

Place a small drop of fabric glue—about half the size of a pea—on the inside of the ring, and wrap the strip an additional 2 to 3 times around the ring until you can’t see any fabric glue bleeding through.

For best results, allow rings to dry overnight. Then trim any excess length on the fabric strip from the ring.

Wrap the strips of fabric around the ring, glue to secure, then trim. Photo by Bobbi Lin

3. Now, using needle nose pliers and referencing the diagram below, connect ring #1 to ring #2 using a 10mm jump ring. (Jump rings, in case you haven't worked with them, have small openings so you can pry them open to hook the rings through and them clamp them back together.)

Connect the milk jug rings using this diagram—plus jump rings and pliars. Photo by Amanda Eggert, Bobbi Lin

Then, build upon this: connect ring #3 to #2 and so forth until rings #1 through #5 are connected and all exist on the same plane.

4. Ring #6 lies one plane above the other; connect it to the jump rings connecting rings #1 and #2, and connecting rings #4 and #5.

Left: Rings 1 through 5 all connected with jump rings on one plane; Right: Ring 6 added on top. Photo by Bobbi Lin

Since ring #6 exists one plane above the others, you’ll connect it with a jump ring to another jump ring.

5. Add desired length of chain to rings #1 and #5 connecting using a 10mm jump ring, then add the clasp to end of the chain using a 7mm jump ring to secure.

Adding a chain and a clasp, both with the help of jump rings. Photo by Bobbi Lin

And that's it. Once you get the basic technique down, it's easy to make more elaborate, organic connections of rings—but I hope you love this simple, elegant version, too!

Photo by Bobbi Lin

If you're not up for the DIY, you can shop more of Amanda Eggert's necklaces made from milk jug rings in her Etsy shop, Vintage Bleed.

What material are you constantly throwing away that you'd love to find a way to repurpose? Tell us in the comments, and we'll see what we can come up with.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

Amanda lives in a totally rad neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has a full time job in advertising and makes jewelry after hours from her apartment. Many of her materials are up-cycled, found at flea markets, thrift stores, and rummage sales throughout the year. She also enlists the help of extended family to collect things that might otherwise be thrown away, to give them a second life as something beautiful.