Faux Jewelry — Dressing Well For Less

By Andras Salamandra

How would you like to cover yourself, your household, and your friends with lots of period jewlery? How would you like to spend less than $30.00 doing it? This wonderful technique was shown to us by Marc Beau Coeur. Here is a list of the materials needed:

  • foam core-board
  • gold leaf size (glue)
  • gold leaf sheets (false gold)
  • clear & colored fingernail polish
  • tacky glue
  • silver paint
  • gesso
  • narrow, textured trim (ex. braided), any color
  • wire-like trim, any color
  • brads, beads, glass “gem stones”, etc/
  • stiff, short-bristled brush for burnishing gold leaf
  • brushes for applying size, gesso and silver paint

To cut costs even more, you can scrounge some materials. Get the foam core-board from shops that mount paints. It’s like posterboard with a styrofoam layer inside. You don’t need a full sheet, scraps are fine. If you are personable, and take along an art book with a glossy photo of the piece you are trying to replicate, you might get the scraps for free! All the other supplies can be found at craft stores, Tandy Leather, or fabric stores. Don’t be a fraid to ask them to special order for you.

Stay away from liquid gold leaf, it looks awful! Tacky glue looks like Elmer’s glue, but is thicker and will hold things in place until it dries. One brand goes under the name “Tacky Glue”.
For an example, we’ll use a typical round Anglo-Saxon brooch with a cruciform decoration. Cut out the core-board to the desired shape (Fig.1). Glue beads, trim and wire or whatever to the piece to approximate the design you are trying to copy onto the foam core cutout using tacky glue (Fig. 2). Don’t glue the gemstones on yet. Straight pins are handy to hold down the trim until the glue dries ((Fig. 3). Glue trim around the edge of the piece to hide the styrofoam (Fig. 4).

earlyperiod8-2When the glue has dried “paint” the piece using the gesso. The gesso will help fill in the cracks so that the piece looks like it was cast.

Gold leaf will wear off just like gold-plating, and it is also hard to get into the small cracks of the piece. To help hide that, paint the entire piece with silver acrylic so that it will appear to be gold-plated silver. When that is dry, apply the gold leaf size according to the directions on the bottle. Place the gold leaf sheets over the piece, and burnish (brush vigorously) to remove excess leaf, smooth over wrinkles, and polish the leaf.

If you have missed anywhere (or more accurately, when you spot the places you have missed) just apply size and leaf over the bad spots! Now is the time to glue or fasten on any glass gem-stones. The gold-leaf underneath will provide added luster to the stones.
Brighten up your jewelry with enamel work using fingernail polish. Two layers will give a translucent effect, more will give a solide color. Cover all the gold leaf surfaces with clear fingernail polish to protect them.

Purchase jewelry fasteners from your craft store, or create your own, and glue to fasten to the back of the piece.

Use your imagination and you can think of all kinds of styles and things to do — Viking women’s brooches, belt ends (use leather as the base instead of foam-core board), and all kinds of other things!


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