12 Jewelry and Accessories Designers Upcycling Wonders from Waste

sheila odessey bag

Jewelry and accessories designers upcycle the most unremarkable trash and turn it into terrific trinkets and trimmings, such as Sheila Odessey’s handbag woven from plastic bags.

Last month we featured several fashion designers that are upcycling textiles and other materials into gorgeous, wearable and chic garments. Now we would like to recognize some of the fantastic jewelry and accessories designers that are taking used, unwanted and salvaged materials and creating amazingly attractive and wearable necklaces, earrings, belts, bags and small accessories.

Like the designers featured in our upcycled fashion post, the creative minds named below are demonstrating that style does not have to sacrificed for the sake of sustainability. For them, this ‘waste’ provides endless realms for creativity and expression. While some of the featured designers take materials such as plastic bags, vintage buttons, bullets, and found objects to transform trash into treasures, others take recycled metals, glass and discarded leather to create beautiful jewelry and bags that are unique and sustainable. Giving a new, useful and beautiful life to an object that would never be deemed glamorous or fashionable requires a creative imagination, and so we’d like to recognize 12 designers whose talents allow us to enjoy brilliant, upcycled handiwork.

1. Akawelle
Akawelle’s jewelry is handmade out of bullets from the Liberian war, which ended in 2003. Designer Lovetta Conto crafts these leaf-shaped pendants from used, melted bullet shells,emblazing them with the word “LIFE” as a symbol of survival through hardship. Ideal for both men and women, these necklaces send the message that “no matter what they’ve been through, they can rise.”

akawelle jewelry

2. Betsy & Iya
Based in Portland, Oregon this jewelry design label defines supreme, sustainable style. Founded on an ex tempore notion that was born in one of the town’s many coffee shops, Betsy Cross’ crafty venture turned into a successful jewelry business that is gorgeous, versatile and full of nostalgia. Betsy & Iya (named after the designer and her older sister/muse) creates wearable and unique jewelry from found objects like curtain rings and vintage materials.

betsy and iya jewelry

3. Falling Whistles
The Falling Whistles organization is selling used whistle necklaces as a symbol of protest and support for peace within the currently turmoiled Congo.The whistles are worn by children too young to hold a gun and are sent to the front lines of the war, and Falling Whistles uses this symbol to raise awareness and act as emblems of whistle blowers for peace. The proceeds from these necklaces allow the organization to invest in active Congolese voices and visionaries in order to build a global coalition for peace.

falling whistles jewelry

4. Hovey Lee
This San Francisco based jewelry designer creates beautiful and polished jewelry that can be worn with nearly any type of outfit. Each piece is crafted from reclaimed brass and turned into delicate, feminine and modern jewelry designs in the form of earrings, rings, necklaces and bracelets. Perfect as unique gifts or treats!

hovey lee jewelry
5. Elvis and Kresse
Based in London, this design duo uses decommissioned hoses form the British fire brigade to craft sharp, stylish and sustainable lifestyle accessories. The Fire-Hose range includes belts, bags, wallets, card holders, iPad cases and much more. To boot, 50 percent of their profits are donated to the Fire Fighters Charity.

elvis and kresse accessories

6. Looking Glass Lane Studios
Jennifer Partridge’s upcycled jewelry collection is made under her patented process which involves combining repurposed plate glass mirrors with her beautiful photographs to create gorgeous glass jewelry. Each piece is handmade by Partridge, and the different photographs, glass plates and designs used render each piece of jewelry from Looking Glass Lane Studios completely unique.


7Maple XO
How many uses can you think of for a skateboard? To Maple XO, jewelry was definitely a top choice, as they create funky pieces that carry the modern day tribal look with them. The label offers earrings, bangles, necklaces, belts and much more, all made from the multi-layered wood of discarded skateboards. So even if you can’t skateboard, now you can wear one!

maplexo jewelry

8. Michelle Lowe-Holder
Based in London, this Canadian designer creates collections on the principles of zero waste and upcycling by using end of lines and scraps from previous collections. Originally a garment designer, Lowe-Holder has shifted her focus to accessories, also working with organizations that aim to develop methods for measuring the carbon footprints of different materials. The Elizabeth collection, inspired by Queen Elizabeth I, is unique, includes metallic leather cut offs, vintage ribbons, natural cork, and lacquered wood, with all pieces handmade in the UK. 

michelle lowe-holder jewelry

9. Scorpion Sisters
This design duo, comprised of Michelle Threadgould and her aunt Margarita Lopez, creates exquisite jewelry, art and furniture from upcycled materials such as broken jewelry and repurposed materials found at thrift stores and estate sales. Quirky, unique and very chic, Scorpion Sisters’ necklaces and earrings marry modern edge with sustainable use of materials with effortless ease.

scorpion sisters jewelry

10. Shannon South
Based in Brooklyn, NY, Shannon South crafts beautiful, durable and extremely high quality leather bags out of discarded leather jackets and other responsibly sourced leather items, such as deadstock remnant leather. Using the most ethically and responsibly sourced leather is a top priority for South, a feature of perfection which carries all the way into the immaculate design and stitching of the her impeccably made handbags, satchels, totes, clutches and cases.

shannon south bags

11. Sheila Odessey
Creative weaving obviously comes naturally to accessory designer Sheila Odessey, who has crafted several collections of purses, clutches and handbags made from plastic bags. Odessey weaves plastic bags from different sources, blending various colors so immaculately that her bags are literally turned from trash into pieces of art. The clutch below is made from clear, dry cleaner bags that feature the ironic “this bag is not a toy” warning.

sheila odessey bag

12. Victoria Tane
This jewelry designer has a penchant for creating beautiful and wearable jewelry from the most unexpected objects. Her collections features materials such as peach pits, driftwood, telephone wires, machine parts, pencil eraser caps, chandelier crystals and even rabies tags. These quirky, yet elegant piece shown below is made entirely out of vintage buttons.

victoria tane jewelry

Images: Akawelle, Betsy & IyaFalling Whistles, Hovey LeeElvis and KresseLooking Glass Lane StudiosMaple XOMichelle Lowe-HolderScorpion SistersShannon SouthSheila OdesseyVictoria Tane