Summer Crafting: DIY Colorful Cowrie Shell Jewelry
Seashell jewelry, especially featuring cowrie shells, is one of summer 2018’s biggest accessory trends. Designers like Aurelie Bidermann, Rebecca de Ravenel, and Gimaguas have plopped seashells onto earrings, necklaces, bracelets and anklets for a fun yet elevated beachy look.
I’ve always had a thing for seashells (at the beach you can usually find me squatting on the shoreline searching for treasure) so these styles have been on my mind ever since I noticed them pop up last summer. I’m especialllly in love with my all-time-fave jewelry designer Aurelie Bidermann’s colored cowrie shells, which suspend from braided cotton cords, 18k gold chains, and small hoop earrings. If you’re looking for a luxurious take on funky beach jewels, they are even more gorgeous in person. However, if you’re ballin’ on a budget like me, you can draw admiration inspiration and create your own colored cowrie shell jewelry using a few jewelry supplies + nail polish!
This is the perfect craft to pack up and bring with you for a summer weekend at the beach because it requires only a handful of compact supplies, is quick/easy/fun, and, of course, offers those beachy vibes we all love in the summertime! Break this projects down into 2-3 sessions and plan your weekend accordingly. I suggest painting your shells with nail polish on Friday evening, letting them dry over night. On Saturday or Sunday you can pack them up for the beach along with your other project supplies for some beach blanket crafting — a fun and creative alternative to beach reading! (That’s what podcasts are for, anyway!)
You can snag 50 sliced-back cowrie shells on Etsy for less than $5. Once you have your cowrie shells in hand, all you have to do to color-ify them is pull out your nail polish collection and get painting with your favorite hues (1-2 coats depending on the color).
If you’re making earrings and want your pair of shells to look similar, be sure to match them up before you paint. You can also pair up shells that are a little different to give a more organic look, like the purple shells pictured above.
Colored Cowrie Shell Small Hoop Earrings
To assemble hoop earrings, you’ll need:
- Small hoop earrings (these are about 10mm)
- Two small jump rings
- Two large jump rings that fit through your cowrie shells
- Two needle nose pliers
Open one large jump ring by using a pair of pliers in each hand and rotating your hands away from each other. Slide the jump ring into the top of the center space of your cowrie shell, letting the ring come through the back. Before closing it add a small jump ring, then close up the large jump ring.
If your wire hoops require bending at the closure, use your plier to turn up the end of your wire hoop 90 degrees. Slide your painted shell charm onto your hoop and voila! Repeat the process for your other earring and enjoy rocking them on and off the beach. 🙂
Colored Cowrie Shell Necklace / Anklet
You can also create a fun statement necklace with your painted shells. Using our favorite Mexican acrylic yarn from our Pom Pom & Tassel DIY Kit, we crafted a cord necklace by alternating between a basic braid and Chinese Staircase (instructions below). You can also use sock-weight yarn or embroidery floss to create the same look.
Start by choosing three colors of yarn or embroidery floss, double them up so you have two strands of each color and cut them to about 42″. Knot all 6 strands together towards at the top of your yarn/floss by holding all ends together and tying one overhand knot with all of them at once. Tie another knot using the same method about 4″ down, then braid your three colors for about 3″. If you’re crafting on the beach like I did, you can anchor your necklace by tying it to your toe or pinning it to your towel with a safety pin.
Next up is Chinese Staircase. If you’re not familiar with this stitch, it’s one simple knot repeated over and over again to create a spiral effect around your center strands. Choose which color you’d like your “staircase” to be then use both strands of this color to knot around the center strands. Start by bending the staircase cords on top of the center strands leaving a bit of a loop on the left. Wrap the tails of the staircase strands behind the center strands and bring them through the left loop.
Holding the center strands taught, ride the knot up and pull it tight once it’s at the top. Repeat this knot for a total of 20 knots.
After your first staircase make another braid (this one 2″), another staircase in a different color, another 2″ braid, a staircase in your third color, and then finally another 3″ braid ended with a knot, then a final knot at the end of your necklace. My necklace ended up at 25″ but you can make yours however long or short you’d like. Just remember if you want a much longer necklace to cut longer strands of yarn/floss.
To add your shells to your necklace, you’ll simply need large jump rings and pliers, which travel easily the beach!
Plan out your pattern using whatever color combo of shells you like. I used a total of seven painted shells, planning for one to be attached to the center of each section.
Holding one plier in each hand, open your jump ring by rotating your hands away from each other. When adding a jump ring to a Chinese Staircase knot, twist the jump ring into the outer “loop” or “staircase” portion of the knot going in at the opposite angle of the loop/staircase.
Add your shell and close with pliers! For the braid, just twist your jump ring into one of the loops of the braid.
And voila!!! So fun, pretty easy, and totally adorable and beachy!! I’m obsessed with this necklace already and will probablyyyyy continue to rock it well into fall bc YOLO!
This necklace should also wrap perfectly around your ankle twice so you can also rock it as an anklet anytime! #Ankleparty anyone?
So fun and easy right?! I absolutely adore these DIYs because you can really get the look for less by painting your own cowrie shells. You can also go beyond these design suggestions and come up with your own colorful cowrie jewelry styles! Add a single shell to a delicate chain, make a bracelet that’s full of them, sew them onto a straw clutch… The possibilities are endless!
As always, be sure to leave any questions in the comments below. If you make this DIY or something else inspired by it, be sure to share and tag @theneonteaparty so I can see what you’re cookin’!
Peace, love & neon,