While making work for this project, I found myself thinking about the history of the materials that have arrived for me to makeover. Who was the first person to own the necklace that I just broke apart and rearranged with new gems? Were those pearls the wrong style for their original owner? Was that bracelet lost on the subway and found too enchanting to leave on the ground by someone else?

Thinking about the history of the materials I received for this project, I decided it was appropriate to also mine from the rich history of jewelry narrative while considering my jewelry format. From Josephine reflects on a necklace that was gifted from the French military and political leader Napoleon to his wife, Josephine. While France was in great poverty, Napoleon created a royal gem for his love. In an opposite way, this necklace has been mined from non-precious materials and I like to think that perhaps this is Josephine’s donation to the Radical Jewelry Makeover.

I like the relationship that a piece of jewelry formed from unconventional materials but employing a traditional format creates.

From Josephine was made of pearl-colored and emerald-colored beads that were woven together, stitched and knotted using French cotton embroidery thread onto a vintage golden necklace. 

I decided to use these bracelets because they have such great movement. These two delicate interlocking bracelets just needed a pop of color and a bit of bling to transform their minimal style to something a bit more fun and funky.

I used two of my favorite variegated French cotton embroidery threads to add color, secure the rhinestones in place around the bracelets and make the inside of the bracelets soft against the wearer’s skin. While I hope these bracelets will have a nice long life as bracelets, the piece could certainly be broken down into parts and used again for future makeovers.


Sarah Holden is a Chicago-based metalsmith and jeweler whose sculptural objects and jewelry work to reverse material expectations in order to confront her conflicted relationship with gender roles. Sarah received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Crafts: Material Studies and Sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University and her Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Sarah exhibits her work nationally and internationally as in her inclusions in Siamese Connection at Brooklyn Metalworks Gallery in Brooklyn, NY, Monochrome Noir at the Velvet da Vinci Gallery in San Francisco, CA, and Chain at the A CASA Museum of Brazillian Object in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sarah has also been honored with an Undergraduate Fellowship from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Sarah currently teaches steel fabrication in the Metal Sculpture Department at the Evanston Art Center and introduction to jewelry/metals at Northeastern Illinois University and the Lillstreet Art Center.

http://www.sarahholdenmetalsmithing.com/