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Costume jewelry Christmas trees — 17 glittery glamorous photos

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I saw my first framed vintage costume jewelry Christmas tree — pearls, rhinestones, brooches, earrings, bracelets, charms and pins all artfully arranged and glued onto black velvet — about 10 years ago when I visited my Dad’s hometown of Aneta, North Dakota. It was still hanging in the living room of an old friend of the family, who had made it decades earlier. She told me that back in the day, women saved their costume jewelry when it broke. (That explains why you sometimes see jars full of broken costume jewelry at estate sales.) Then, before the holidays, they would all get together and use the bits to make Christmas trees or crosses. I presume they traded its and bits. What a lovely art form.

Of course, absolutely mesmerized, I tried to buy the lovely, gracious woman’s costume jewelry Christmas tree, or the cross, right off the wall. She really seemed to consider my offer, possibly because she had never seen anyone go so crazy over something she’d made. In the end, though, she wouldn’t sell them. Fast forward 10 years, and of course I’ve been collecting lots of broken jewelry and have enough to do my own. Next year: I’m inviting a friend over for tree-making!

I was reminded of all this when several readers uploaded photos of their vintage costume jewelry Christmas trees in our weekend uploader — 375+ photos!!

Above: Naomi’s costume jewelry Christmas tree. She wrote:

“My fiance’s mother made this for him years ago… There are even lights on it!” 

jewelry-christmas-treeAbove, a tree uploaded from a mystery reader, who said:

This is one of my most treasured pieces. It was made by a dear family friend using old costume jewelry from her aunt’s estate. Look closely and you will find old brooches, earrings, and charms that individually aren’t worth much but set together like this becomes an heirloom.

Indeed.

costume-jewelry-christmas-treeAbove: Kristy H. says that her costume jewelry tree also has lights!

vintage-costume-jewelry-christmas-trees-with-lightsAbove: And here they are!

jewelry-christmas-treeAbove: Carolyn’s gorgeous costume jewelry Christmas tree.

vintage-jewelry-christmas-tree
jewelry-vintage-christmas-treeAbove: Two from LuAnn, first shared on our Facebook page and used here with permission, who says: 

Here are two that I just saw in a retirement home lobby that a woman that lives there made ! Stunning in person !

christmas-tree-made-from-costume-jewelryAbove: Featured on our Facebook page and used with permission. Lucky Kristi said:

Found mine at a flea market for $1. It’s one of my favorite decorations!

framed-christmas-tree-costume-jewelryAbove: Featured on our Facebook page and used with permission.Teresa said:

I adore these. Anybody who knows me knows aqua is my color so I’m so happy to have found this at a yard sale.

broken-jewelry-christmas-treeAbove: Shelley’s is a family heirloom. First shown on our Facebook page, used here with permission. She explains:

My grandmother used to make these and she’s no longer with us. So now I cherish mine even more.

christmas-tree-made-from-old-pins-broochesAbove: This one looks to be made entirely from old pins — our grandmothers would have called them “brooches”. Originally featured on our Facebook page and used here with permission, Taylor explains:

I made one out of vintage family jewelry my mom gave me!

costume-jewelry-christmas-treeAbove: Added by a mystery reader in a follow-up uploader. She/he said:

I saw the story about these, and I love the one I found a few years ago, so I thought I’d add to the collection – a little out of focus…

vintage-costume-jewelry-christmas-treeAbove: Featured to our Facebook page and used here with permission. Mary says:

My mother-in-law made one for us utilizing my husbands grandmothers old costume jewelry. I think it’s wonderful! I wish I had one from my grandmother jewelry as well!

broken-costume-jewelry-christmas-treeAbove: Dawn added this one to our Facebook page, now used here with permission. It’s also a family treasure, she says:

My Mom made this one. I will cherish it forever.

costume-jewelry-christmas-treeAbove: Here’s one made of just rhinestones, spotted at an estate sale of a couple who ran estate sales (Take some time to think about that.)

costume-jewelry-christma

Above, reader Nancy Long said:

Close-up of the jewelry picture. The jewelry picture has tiny Christmas lights I found this at an antique mall about 10 years ago. I see something new every year. 

embroidered-christmas-tree

And above, not a jewelry tree, but an embroidered tree that includes sequins. Such lovely needlecraft. Mystery reader said:

Look closely and you will see little white doves and snow flakes on the silver tree.

how to make art from jewelry tutorial
Wanna make your own? See my tutorial: How to make a vintage costume jewelry Christmas tree
broken costume jewelry christmas tree
… And: I make one of my own — get my tips.

  1. Jamie says:

    My Aunt Evelyn made several of these. Sadly, the one she made for my mom got passed on by my dad (by then a widower) to the family of his new lady friend and lost forever. Aunt Evelyn’s signature was a little elephant in the corner — trunk up, of course, for good luck!

  2. Holland VanDieren says:

    I love these be-jewelled trees. Maybe I’ll adapt the idea to a valentine heart. Good timing to start collecting a bushel of ruby rhinestones!

  3. mlle says:

    You just brought joy to my heart. Great idea to recycle’s my mom’s cache of ‘lost pearls’. Love it! Will do.

  4. Marie Gamalski says:

    I am MAD for these… I have a huge cache of vintage, mostly regency jewelry that I wear, however, I think I could fashion something similar w/out doing any damage… I’m thinking an embroidery hoop w/a stitch or two of fishing line, then temporarily frame for the holidays…..????

  5. C.C. says:

    I work in an antique store and have seen several of these lately. The gems appear to be glued in place. (If you had a Bedazzler back in the day and have some rhinestone backs lying around, those could work for some shapes/sizes, too.)

    As a crafter (and the daughter of a 30+ year hot glue gun user), yes, hot glue will work. However, you must be VERY careful – this is a good way to burn yourself with hot glue (if you want to use hot glue anyway, PLEASE handle your rhinestones with long-handled tweezers), and hot glue can mess up the pile on velvet (or yank it out if you pick off glue beads).

    I strongly recommend using fabric glue instead – it’s a LOT less messy, you won’t burn your fingers, and you have a little time to reposition your jewels before the glue sets.

  6. Colleen says:

    Hubby and I saw a gorgeous one at an antique mall over the weekend but it was “costly”. It was a wooden, green-painted tree shape on paneling in a gold frame, and was lit with mini-lites. I could see Hubby’s “Daffy Duck Dollar-Sign Eyes” as he said “You have a lot of that old jewelry around, don’t you?” Yes, and I WEAR it, Sweetie!

  7. Gayle says:

    I decorated a lacy Christmas stocking with old jewelry. Some of which is vintage & have taken some pieces off to wear.

  8. tammyCA says:

    That’s a project on my “to do” list..I inherited a bunch of costume jewelry from hubby’s grandmother. What isn’t wearable I’ll collage or make a Christmas tree. Several years ago at the planterium I saw the coolest thing..a display of thousands of vintage brooches of all rhinestone stars on black velvet fabric stretched down the corridor wall..it went on forever! I was mesmerized & started my rhinestone star pins collection right away..only have managed to find about 10 but I’m only going for a small framed display not a mile long. 🙂
    My crafting season has been sewing lots & lots of sequins & beads on all the vintage felt Christmas kits I bought..so sparkly.

  9. denise says:

    After seeing these on the uploader and being reminded of how I like them, the bells went off in my head. I have lots of bits and pieces for one of these, so I’m adding it to my project list.

  10. Suzy says:

    I have MASSIVE amounts of my mothers jewelry (she passed August 2012) and now I know what I can make with all of the jewelry. This will be GREAT Christmas gifts for my brothers and her grandchildren too! How is the jewelry attached? Are these displayed in shadow boxes?

    1. Kristy H. says:

      On mine the pieces are glued on- it looks like broken jewelry was used. If you have jewelry that you don’t want to glue you can sew or pin them on- especially easy with brooches!
      My picture has a velvet fabric background and is not covered with glass – none of the ones I have seen have glass but I bet a shadow box would work!

    2. pam kueber says:

      I would assume glue was used. But I bet you wanna check that the glue is of a type that adheres well to fabric.

      Most of the vintage designs I have ever seen were in ornate frames, and the substrate was velvet. Personally, I would not put in a shadow box under glass/acrylic — I think there is much to be gained by being able to see the jewelry without anything between it and you.

    3. Bobby says:

      If you’re going to use inherited jewelry to make one of these trees, please, please, PLEASE use only the broken bits. Many vintage costume jewelry pieces are valuable if they are in good shape, signed, and/or in sets. You could easily ruin jewelry that’s worth hundreds of dollars by gluing it onto fabric. If you still want to use the good stuff to make a tree(and the good stuff is usually the prettiest) I suggest doing the extra work and sewing it on, so it could be safely removed if need be at a later date.

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