Upcycle those dangle earrings you never wear anymore — the ones that were a total mistake X years ago — and give them a funky new life as fool-the-eye faux stones. The secret is papier mâché, a quick and easy craft anyone can enjoy. You might even get a bored pre-teen girl to put down her phone for this fun DIY project!
Here’s what you’ll need to make your own faux-rock paper mache earrings:
- One pair of hook-type earrings you won’t want to wear again (or jewelry hardware from a craft store, if you want to make new earrings from scratch)
- Old newspaper, paper towel, toilet paper, or tissue paper
- Plastic wrap
- A small paint brush
- Lint-free rags or a sponge
- 2 Tbsp white household glue, mixed with 2 Tbsp water to make a thin paste
- Craft paints (in the rock-like natural colors of your choice)
- Water-based clear sealer (preferably with a low-gloss or satin finish)
With a bit of scrap paper, paste and acrylic craft paints, you too can quickly and easily upcycle an old pair of dangle earrings into one-of-a-kind earrings that look like rocks. Whatever size and color you like for jewelry, this craft is as easy as forming a paper mache shape around the old bauble, then daubing on paint in two or three different shades to create the appearance of rock.
Step 1: Papier Mache
Get ready to craft!
Cover your work table with newspaper or plastic, for easy clean-up. Wind a piece of plastic wrap around the earring hooks to protect them from paste while you’re making the paper mache rocks. Mix your glue and water in a small saucer.
Rip a bunch of paper into small strips, as narrow as you can get them and no more than 3 or 4 inches long. I suggest tearing the paper, not cutting it, so the edges will be soft and uneven. It will give a more realistic look to your finished pieces.
Build the Fake Rocks
Wet a strip of paper in the paste, then run it between your fingers to remove the excess paste. It should be thoroughly moistened but not dripping or soggy – go easy on the paste, so your jewelry won’t take forever to dry. Wrap the pasted paper around the dangling pendant of one of those old earrings.
Repeat with the other earring.
Continue to work back and forth from one earring to the other as you add more strips of pasted paper, building up a form that looks like it could be a small rock. The two earrings don’t need to be absolutely identical in shape — no two rocks are exactly alike in nature — but you’ll want to make them fairly similar in size.
It’s okay if you let your project dry out a little bit between adding each layers — that just means a quicker drying time at the end.
Finesse Your Paper Mache
When you’ve got a couple of rock shapes you’re happy with, tear off small pieces of tissue paper or paper towel, just barely moisten them with paste, and smooth them on to your earring rocks as the last layer. This is just to soften any glaring lines left by the newspaper strips and add a bit of a finer texture, which helps to make the faux rocks look more realistic.
Let ’em Dry
Gently remove the plastic wrap from the metal hooks, so it doesn’t get permanently glued on, and set the earrings aside to dry. I like to dry my papier mache projects on an old wire cookie-cooling rack to let the air circulate freely around them.
Don’t rush the drying time! A couple of days in a warm place is the least it’ll take to dry them all the way through to the center, in my experience. If the paper mache pieces are at all cool to the touch, that is a sign they’ve still got some drying to do.
Step 2: “Faux Finish” Painting
Here’s where we get really creative!
A faux rock paint finish may look a bit challenging at first, but it’s really hard to do it “wrong” — have you ever noticed what a variety of rocks and stones Nature has created? Gather up a few that attract you, perhaps, and bring them in to your crafts space for inspiration.
Acrylic craft paints are great because they’re inexpensive, they dry very quickly, and you can wash up with soap and water. Plan to use three different colors of paint, if possible. Two colors just doesn’t look real, and four or more colors can look fussy. For some reason I can’t begin to explain, three is the magic number!
Start with a base coat of your darkest color. If you’ve used newspaper for your papier mache, this will quickly hide the newspaper print. Once the faux rocks are all one solid color, it’s easier to imagine how you want to finish off the jewelry to work with your wardrobe and look like the real thing.
Next, put a dot of your lightest, brightest color of paint onto the corner of a sponge or rag. Add it here and there over the dark base coat, wiping off or dabbing on just as the spirit moves you.
Again, work back and forth between the two earrings so they’ll end up looking like the same kind of rocks.
Before the second color of paint is completely dry, wipe it off a bit with a rag or sponge. Some of the paint will naturally stay in small hollows and rough areas on your faux rocks, while you remove it from the raised areas. This gives a far more natural effect than a smooth application would, so it works to your advantage!
Finally, add a tiny touch of the third (mid-range) color here and there, using the smallest paintbrush you have or a small piece of a fine-textured natural sea sponge. Sometimes I use the tip of a toothpick or bamboo skewer to add a few very fine lines, like the speckles or fine veins that you’ll often see in real rocks and minerals.
When you’re happy with how your faux rock earrings turned out, allow the paint to dry – it takes almost no time at all – then apply a light coat of clear acrylic sealer to protect the finish from wear and weather.
Step 3: Flaunt!
When you try on your upcycled paper mache earrings, I think you’ll be pleased by the results. Don’t be surprised by at all the compliments you’ll get, when friends learn how you made your own cool faux-rock earrings out of paper mache!