Victorian bling

Vintage Metallics turns ‘repurposed’ antique into unique jewelry

Photo submitted by Judy Martin
Photo submitted by Judy Martin
Judy Martin receives the blue ribbon for first place at the Cedar Valley Arts Festival in 2015.
Photo submitted by Judy Martin

A love of beautiful details and intricate patterns led Judy Martin to begin collecting Victorian buttons about 15 years ago. And as the collection grew, so did the idea of repurposing those buttons into unique jewelry for more to enjoy.

“I saw their potential for serving some other, more glamourous purpose,” said Martin, an artist who has lived in Alpharetta since 1995. “[The buttons] made beautiful pins and necklaces, and I soon moved on to antique silver-plated spoons and forks for pendants and bracelets.”

Martin sells her pieces through her company, Vintage Metallics, reaching a wide base of customers online through her Etsy shop, as well as locally through artist venues and shows which she participates in throughout the year.

Her range of designs are made of antique silver plate spoons and forks, freshwater pearls, chandelier crystals, and crystal beads, which are inspired by a more elegant period from Victorian to Art Deco, she notes.

“My favorite patterns are from the Victorian, Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles from the 1870s-1930s. I just love the patina of old metal paired with the glow of freshwater pearls and crystal beads,” said Martin, who has been an artist in some form or fashion for as long as she can remember.

She grew up in East Point, Ga., the daughter of two very creatively inclined parents who passed their love of art down to their daughter.

“As a kid, I would visit my dad’s workshop out in the garage and use all his copper wire to create swirly and spiral shapes...then hammer them flat to make earrings and bracelet links,” Martin recalls.

In elementary school, when other kids were checking out story books in the library, she would come home with armloads of “how-to” books.

“My preferred choices consisted of books about building bird houses, origami, crochet and jewelry making,” Martin recalls, laughing at the times she was sent back to the library by her teacher to get a fiction book.

But from those early “how to” books, she gained the knowledge she would use as an artist from that point on.

“Even as a child, I never had to buy a present.  I just made presents for all my friends...crocheted purses, necklaces, scarves, and little rings,” Martin notes.

She was a music major in college, eventually working as a middle school teacher, where knowing how to keep kids engaged with hands-on activities came in handy.

Her exposure to the history side of music, in addition to the performance, was where she believes the roots of her jewelry business took hold.

“My music history classes examined how the art, literature and the politics of each musical period were all related...and the intricate detail of the Baroque and Classical periods fascinated me most,” Martin says.

Those influences can now be seen in the patterns and embellishments of her jewelry, enhanced by her use of components which are 100-150 years old.

“I want my jewelry to have a classic look that will stand the test of time into the future like Bach and Beethoven,” she says.

Like many artists, she started her career making pieces for fun, family and friends. But as word got out, there was an interest and demand beyond her circle of friends, and she stepped into the business world.

“I began to do shows and found them very successful,” Martin said. “And after a couple of years, I began thinking of myself as an artist instead of a crafter.”

She says her first place wins at artist festivals in 2015 officially marked her debut as a professional artist.

Asked to describe her jewelry, Martin said she considers her work “folk art” because the pieces she uses were never intended to be jewelry.

“I use the handles of antique spoons to make pendants and bracelets. I also solder a border around chandelier crystals and embellish them with a charm or a tassel. I also like to flatten out mthe bowl of a spoon and solder a stamped brass Victorian ornament to it and apply a turquoise patina,” she notes.

Of all her pieces, her favorite design is the Celtic cross pendant made from four spoon handles, soldered to a hammered brass background, with an antique button in the middle. Martin says there are challenges to making jewelry out of repurposed items.

“You have to make all the components sing together as something beautiful and graceful instead of just a forgotten piece of metal from the past,” she says.

She has recently begun incorporating hammered copper into her designs, topping it off with a vintage turquoise pin as a focal point. She spends a lot of time exploring antique markets and malls to find the items she uses in her jewelry, including antique silverware and old metal items, like brass doorknobs, hinges, glass knobs and old spoons and forks.

“This involves a lot of silver polishing when I get home, but it’s worth it,” she laughs.

In addition to the hours spent “exploring” for pieces, Martin said most of her pieces take from one to four hours to finish. During her peak production time, she estimates she will spend about 10 hours a day creating her jewelry.

Vintage Metallics jewelry is sold primarily at the 10-12 art shows she does each year, stores in Apalachicola and Port St. Joe in Florida, and in her Etsy shop (

Martin said she was recently invited into the “amazing” folk art gallery on Canton Street in Roswell, Wild Oats and Billy Goats, which also has a location in Decatur. ■


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