Turning Memories into Jewelry

My family loves collecting pressed pennies. For 51 cents, it’s one of the cheapest souvenirs you can bring home from a trip. The kids have been keeping their pennies in albums – they have at least two each by now – but some jewelry designs have come across my Pinterest feed making me want to collect a stash of pennies for myself. A blog post on cheapskateprincess.com collected many different ways of using pressed pennies in jewelry, and another post on worldofwalt.com gave me some confidence that I could make some jewelry myself despite having little experience at it.

I volunteered a pressed penny from Provincetown, MA for my first attempt at making jewelry. Most of the designs involve putting a hole in the penny to add a jump ring, and I was afraid of ruining my collection as I figured out the technique. My parents often vacation on Cape Cod and invite me to join them, so I knew this one could be replaced if necessary.

Websites told me of a few different ways to put holes in pennies. I decided to try a hand-held drill because power tools are obviously better. I clamped the penny to a small piece of wood so that the drill bit would go into the wood once it pierced the penny. This didn’t work. Instead of boring through the penny, the drill exposed the zinc inside the penny and created a bump on the back side. No matter how hard I pressed (and was reluctant to press too hard and snap the skinny 1/16″ bit), the drill wouldn’t drill.IMG_0161aIMG_0165a

Asking my social networks for advice, many felt that a drill press would do a better job than the hand-held drill. I wasn’t convinced. Instead, I grabbed the 40% off coupon that comes in every Sunday newspaper and went down to Michaels craft store. They had a nifty steel hole punch for around $20. It wasn’t a power tool, but it allowed me to put the screws to that stubborn penny.Hole Punch collage

The punch left sharp edges, but tapping it with a little hammer was enough to smooth it out. The penny also got a polishing with some Brasso that I picked up at the grocery store.IMG_0169

When I visited WDW, my main souvenir was an Alex & Ani bracelet with Cinderella’s Castle as the charm. Those bracelets are pretty alone but designed to be worn in a group. I started searching around for blank bracelets to create my own. I found similar designs on Etsy and decided to go with this purchase. In the back of my mind, I knew that I could use them with my Girl Scout troop to make pressed penny souvenirs whenever we took a trip as a troop. This was a long-term project because the bracelets come from China and can take a month in transit.

These bracelets are close to the Alex & Ani design, but there are a few differences. I think the originals are a bit stiffer, whether a slightly thicker wire or a harder metal blend. Also, these bracelet blanks are larger in size. While it’s loose on my arm, my daughter can slip it right off without expanding the bangle. If you have larger wrists, the cheap bangles will work just fine for you.

Putting the bangle together was trivial after figuring out how to make the hole in the penny. I just needed a few jump rings and some tiny charms from Michaels to add a little color and interest.

I call this pressed penny experiment a success. I have more plans for my Disney pressed pennies, but that is another post for another day!



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