DIY: Make Cheap Costume Jewelry Look Antique


If you have zero time to wait on drying, barely any supplies and some costume jewelry you’d like to age – you might like to try this.

My marriage wasn’t traditional, we tried to be very frugal so we could blow a ton of money on our honeymoon. Part of being frugal was looking for inexpensive jewelry that would fit the idea I had for our wedding photos. I had no luck at the local antique places after searching around for a few months I gave up. I ended up finding some pieces I liked at the local mall that weren’t too pricey but they looked brand new and totally cheap.


Cute, but very costume-y and cheap!

I started googling ways to “distress” or “antique” my jewelry a few days before my wedding photoshoot was scheduled. A lot of the tutorials recommended things I didn’t have (like wood stain) but above all was time. I did NOT have time to wait days for my pieces to dry, procrastination holding out for that perfect antique piece was not a good idea. I found a tutorial referencing using nail polish…and I thought if I found the right shade I could probably get that to work.

Insert the next problem, no one had the right shade of nail polish. Yes, being picky is not the best in time-crunched situations. Back to google.

Did you know you could make your own shade of nail polish? I didn’t, but now I do. So with that plan I decided to throw everything against the wall to see how it turned out, I wasn’t disappointed!

What you will need:

To make your own custom shade of nail polish:

  • Eyeshadow in the shade of polish you’d like
  • Bottle of clear nail polish

To antique your jewelry:

  • Jewelry
  • Q-tips & Paper Towels
  • Nail Polish Remover
  • Your custom shade of nail polish
  • Bottle of black nail polish

Once you have those things, follow these instructions and see what you can do!


Step 1: Carve out the powder of the shade you want your nail polish to be. Slowly add the powder to your bottle of clear nail polish and mix with the brush. Since I was antiquing I looked for a very warm deep brown that was similar to the tarnish you find on old jewelry.  The amount of powder needed varies for how pigmented you want your color, so start adding and mixing gradually until you get the shade you want. The more you add the more opaque the polish will become. Depending on your choice of shadow, it will have an effect on how matte or gloss it ends up, but for the application we’ll be using it for today it doesn’t matter.

Step 2: Once your polish is mixed and tested to have the look and feel you’re going for, break out the jewelry! Make sure it has been cleaned and fully dried before you start to apply the nail polish. You can see I also have a black polish to tint the jewelry in some areas for a deeper contrast – this is subjective so just use your best judgement! [NOTE] the custom nail polish will “settle” as time goes on. So make sure to mix before each use if some time has elapsed between creation and use.


Step 3: APPLICATION! This is the fun part. Slather the nail polish on your jewelry with the nail polish brush and use the towel to wipe it off. This is a classic method of “distressing” an object with paint and your jewelry is no different. (here is a helpful video about acrylic washing, use a very similar technique)

Once you’ve wiped most of it off, the polish will settle into the cracks. Use the Q-Tip to smear it around and dab on the stones to make it appear tarnished. If you mess up? No big deal, use your nail polish remover and a second Q-Tip to wipe the mistakes away. If your application is too heavy in some areas, use more remover and wipe it out with your Q-Tip.

Step 4: Once you’re satisfied with the effect, let your jewelry completely dry a few hours before you wear it.
And that’s it! I didn’t expect such a simple method to work as well as it did after all of the tutorials I read highly recommended using various stains. I’m sure this won’t be as durable as those methods, but for a couple wears it worked perfectly for me.


All done/Antiqued!

Enjoy, and if you try this out and want to share link me in the comments!

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