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Recycled Jewelry Project Comes to Montgomery College

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More than just an environmentally friendly way to dispose of plastic, metal, and paper, recycling can also be an art, as Montgomery College art students learned when they partnered with the Baltimore Jewelry Center for the Radical Jewelry Makeover project.

“Everything that is part of the Radical Jewelry Makeover exhibition was made from something that was either directly mined from the donations we got, or was taken and then refined and reprocessed into new material,” said Erica Bello, studio manager and instructor at the Baltimore Jewelry Center.

Some of the donated jewelry had metals that could be safely melted and reprocessed, while other pieces, like costume jewelry, contained cheap and toxic metals that are dangerous to heat and melt, said MC art professor Lucy Derickson.

“It started out as a challenge and became something that they, like, conquered,” said professor Derickson.

To kick off the project, students learned about how mining damages the environment and puts the health of mining communities at risk.

“It definitely impacted the way I look at the jewelry industry,” said art student Sam Longman, who made a ring and two broaches for the project. Like many of his classmates, he said he had never considered where jewelry metal comes from before participating in Radical Jewelry makeover.

“It’s really heartbreaking,” said art student Miriam Amar, who made a ring, a necklace, and a pair of earrings for the project. “I buy a lot more jewelry reused now.”

Art student Jacqueline Hernandez says that now when she shops for jewelry on Etsy, she checks that artists use mostly recycled materials before buying their products. Sometimes she reaches out to artists to ask where they get their supplies.

When working with costume jewelry, students got creative with how they put parts together. Instead of using soldering metal pieces together, they used rivets, thread, wire and metal tabs to hold their pieces together.

Art student Sam Longman said costume jewelry tends to be gaudier and more colorful than jewelry made with precious metals.

Longman said that he appreciated the challenge, particularly because he found the creativeness of costume jewelry inspiring.

“The biggest challenge in this project was to figure out how to make a design that’s stable, that isn’t too flimsy, without using a torch,” Hernandez said. Despite the difficulty, she was pleased with her finished pieces. “I would actually wear this,” she said of the necklace she made for the project.

Student pieces are now on display at the Baltimore Jewelry Center until Jan. 19, along with Recycled Jewelry Makeover pieces made by local artists and students from Towson University.

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Recycled Jewelry Project Comes to Montgomery College