Plug into a new trend: jewellery made from e-waste
Cash in the chips: Independent designers are making a statement by turning bits of electronic scrap into fashion accessories for the fashionista, or the tech geek.Updated: Aug 10, 2019 16:16 IST
A circuit board pendant in rainbow colours, earrings made of computer keyboard buttons, bobby pins and cufflinks with embedded microchips — e-waste jewellery is catching on as a sustainable way to stand out.
Only a tiny fraction of the electronic waste we generate can ever be upcycled like this, but it’s the thought that counts, and as people discard more smartphones, computers, tablets and e-readers than ever before, independent designers are making a statement by turning bits of it into unique accessories for the fashionista, or the tech geek.
The concept of jewellery has changed in the last two decades, and this is part of that change, says fashion designer Nachiket Barve.
“We’ve gone from a focus on gold and silver with precious gems and classical designs, to a phase of designer and imitation jewellery. And now we have jewellery that looks different, is unusual, and upcycling is becoming a big part of that,” Barve says.
The key is for it to look good and be affordable. “Nobody wants to walk around wearing circuit boards that look like circuit boards. The end product should look like jewellery.”
Most of the e-waste jewellery we reviewed passes that test, at prices that start at Rs 1,500. But not all of it is low-cost. Computer company Dell, for instance, has entered into a partnership with the American actress Nikki Reed for a jewellery line in 2018 called The Circular Collection by BaYou With Love. It uses gold recovered from computer motherboards. Prices start at Rs 17,000.
WHERE TO FIND IT
At Circuit Breaker Labs, Amanda Preske, who started out as a traditional jewellery designer, now also turns computer hardware, mobile phone components and pieces from landline devices into cufflinks, earrings, chokers and bracelets.
“My brother was dismantling our home computer when I saw and fell in love with the intricacy of the circuit boards,” she says. “I now trade finished jewellery for circuit boards and sell online [circuitbreakerlabs.myshopify.com] as well as at art shows and festivals.” Prices start at Rs 1,800.
Nakit Prodaja, who runs SikiliFrik, uses the tiniest electronic parts, to minimise waste. Pieces of motherboard chips and tiny rotating motors, which cannot typically be reused or recycled, are cut in irregular geometric shapes and embedded in brass, steel and rubber to make pendants and chokers. She retails her work via Etsy, at prices starting from Rs 1,500.
For buyers, a big draw is the fact that each piece of e-waste jewellery is more or less unique. “On a vacation in Seoul, my aunt got me a pair of earrings made from microchips taken off a motherboard. Five years later, they’re still my favourite pair. They’re so unusual, my friends are always borrowing them too,” says Sheona Everett, 20, a student from Ahmedabad.
At The Recomputing (therecomputing.com), an independent design house run by Slovakians Jaroslav Pavlysh, an engineer, and his wife Natalka, you can also get colourful barrettes, bobby pins, keychains and wristbands embellished with bits of e-waste. Prices start at Rs 1,900.
First Published: Aug 10, 2019 16:16 IST