Tutorial: Make vintage-inspired earrings

Yes, you may be thinking wait—she’s leaving for Viva Las Vegas in the week. What the heck is she doing writing up a crafty tutorial?! Well the fact of the matter is that I actually made these earrings for my trip, so I took some photos along the way to share.

I love vintage earrings as much as the next gal, but as we all know, most earlier earrings are screw back or clip on styles. Not really that comfortable if you ask me, and sometimes the back isn’t in very good condition, either. So I thought it would be fun to whip up my own vintage-inspired earrings with more comfortable supplies. These are a great alternative when you’re worried you’ll lose one of your most precious vintage earrings or your ears just need a break.

I am almost embarrassed to present this as a tutorial since it’s so easy: get the supplies, glue them together, let them set up. I’m hardly reinventing the wheel here. But humor me, and I’ll give you a bit more details so you can try it yourselves!

How to make your own vintage-inspired earrings

Supplies you’ll need

  • 2 matching items for the front of your earrings. I used resin cabochons, which are easily found on Etsy or eBay for pretty cheap. Take a look at a search for them. (Tip: if you’re looking on Etsy, make sure to select “Supplies” from the search menu.) You could use large buttons, large beads, a pair of broken vintage earrings or parts from a vintage thermoset necklace or bracelet, miniature fruit meant for dollhouses (seriously, I’m totally smitten with this idea after seeing so many pair of vintage fruit basket earrings)… really the sky is the limit here. The main thing is that the back of the item needs to be flat so you can attach your earring post. I do have a fondness for flower cabochons, however, since I think they have a very vintage feel to them. I picked two coral-colored rose cabochons. Aren’t they pretty?
  • 2 earring posts. Again, these are very easy to find on eBay or Etsy (Etsy example here). You can buy a bag large enough to make a dozen or more pair for just a few bucks. I went with stainless steel and a wider 10mm base for maximum surface area.
  • 2 comfort earring clutches. When you order earring posts they will likely come with standard butterfly clutches. However, I highly recommend ordering separate clutches, which are sometimes called “comfort clutches” and are much wider at the base (Etsy example here). Now this is a matter of personal preference and size of what will be on the front of your earring. My rose cabochons were almost 1″ across, so I needed to distribute the weight on more surface area of my earlobe. There’s no way I could have used a standard butterfly clutch. Check out the difference in size and you’ll understand why. The one on the right will give you a more comfortable, sturdier base and prevent larger earrings from pulling away from your earlobe. (Hint to you gals with stretched ears: they also allow you to wear earrings on a day you don’t feel like plugs, if your gauge is about 1/2″ or less.)
  • 2 part epoxy. There are lots of brands out there. I’m no expert, but I used Epoxy 330 with good results. Just make sure to get the kind that comes in two tubes that you mix together. I went with one that dried clear.
  • Acetone and a cotton swab. You can use acetone and a cotton swab to clean both sides of your working materials prior to bonding them together. I used my nail polish remover—but don’t do that if you use the non-acetone variety. 😉

Gathering the supplies is probably the hardest and most time-consuming part. But once you have all of those items on hand, you’ll be set to make a ton of cute earrings that look vintage!

Step 1.  Squeeze out equal amounts of each of your tubes of epoxy on a disposable surface.  Make sure your working surface is suitably covered in case your glue travels around as you work. You wouldn’t think it was easy to get glue on other surfaces when you’re mixing an itty bitty amount, but you’d be wrong. Trust me. I mixed my epoxy on a piece of a plastic bag placed on one of my cutting mats.

Step 2.  Mix the epoxy for a good few minutes.  This is boring and seems unnecessary, but trust me, it goes a long way in making a strong bond. Put a good tune on and stir, stir, stir with a toothpick or something else small and disposable. You’ll see bubbles start to form in your epoxy mixture.

Step 3.  Let the epoxy sit for several minutes to thicken.  Don’t be tempted to rush this process. Epoxy takes a long time to harden, so you’re really not in any danger of your mixture setting up before you get a chance to actually use it. If you’re worried, periodically go over to it and give it a stir. You’ll notice it getting thicker but not hard. That’s exactly what you want. If you use it too soon the mixture will be too watery and your earring post may slide around while it’s hardening (I’ll show you of a photo of that in a couple of steps). Read your particular epoxy’s instructions. Mine thickens in 15 minutes and doesn’t harden for 2 hours.

Step 4.  Clean off the surfaces you’ll bond together.  This means the flat part of your earring post and the back of whatever you’re using for your earrings (in my case the rose cabochons). Take a cotton swap and just wipe a little acetone over both. I do this step now because it gives me something to do while I’m waiting on the epoxy to thicken. (Smart planning, huh?)

Step 5.  Once your epoxy has thickened, apply the mixture to your earring posts.  I use just enough to cover most of the back of the earring post, which should be enough to have just a bit squeeze out of the sides when they’re attached. Before you place the post on, eyeball where you’d like it to go (and make sure both of your items are facing the same direction!). If you’re using something large or heavy I would recommend placing the post a bit higher than center so that it’s not top-heavy, preventing the tendency for the earring to fall forward from your earlobe. See how I did that with my roses?

Step 6.  Wait and then fiddle around if necessary.  That sounds like a silly step, doesn’t it? Really what I mean is give your earrings some time to set, but check on them periodically. If the front of your earrings are not perfectly flat you may find the post slid around a bit if you didn’t let your epoxy thicken long enough. Before you hit the stage where the epoxy is really and truly hard, you still have some wiggle room, literally and figuratively. Take a look at my example below. (Yes I did throw another set of earrings in there, little navy blue mums!)

Step 7.  Wait 24 hours.  Really, you don’t have to wait quite that long, but I prefer to make sure my epoxy is 100% set before I test drive my new earrings.

That’s all there is to it! Once your epoxy has set, you have fabulous new vintage-inspired earrings!

Aren’t they sweet little things?

Don’t they look like something these lovely ladies from the 1943 Sears Catalog would wear?

Go on, give your new earrings a test drive!

Hope you enjoyed this little tutorial!

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