DIY Shadow Box: Old Family Jewelry + Pictures of Kids Wearing It

Posted in DIY, Giving, Lifestyle

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When my mom’s parents passed away 10 years ago, my childhood home instantly became filled with a hodgepodge collection of items that belonged to them. And, honestly? Those items have been shoved in boxes and into closets and literally taking up the entire dining room of my parents’ house ever since. The “stuff” is everywhere

Like so many, my mom has been struggling to let go of the things that made up the home of parents that she loved dearly. We’ve all been there. 

One thing that was inherited was a massive jewelry box filled with my grandmother’s trinkets.

Now, anything of value or personal significance was pulled out by my mom in the initial sweep of the house after their passing (as it should have been)—wedding bands, an emerald ring, the charm bracelet from my mom’s childhood, etc.—, and is kept with the rest of my mom’s jewelry that she wears. 

What’s I’m talking about is what’s leftover after all of the special pieces are removed—the broaches from Sunday morning church outfits, the faux pearl strands in a variety of lengths and shades, the clip-on earrings themed according to the season—essentially, the costume jewelry that was likely on-trend at the time that doesn’t really translate into today’s fashion (at least not for those who understand literally nothing about fashion, such as myself). 

Stuff that looks something like this:

old family jewelry for crafting what to do with

(Also, bring out something sparkly and potentially dangerous aaaaand…here comes the baby to play with it!)

cute baby playing with old jewelry on table

Every. Single. Time. 

In an effort to show my mom what it can look like when you take the advice from almost every organizational expert and highlight special items while getting rid of the rest, I came up with an idea:

Use my grandmother’s old costume jewelry to create a Mother’s Day gift that my mom would love. (And one that happens to fit in with the color scheme of the guest room that she just redecorated, and fits perfectly on the blank space of the wall that bugs my OCD brain every time I look at it.)

I could have just put the jewelry in a shadow box on it’s own, or reworked it into a shape like so many DIY projects (Christmas trees made out of jewelry is all the rage, apparently), but I really wanted to kick the significance of the gift up a notch.

Enter: my two daughters, Berkeley and Abilene. 

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sisters baby and toddler pictures spring atlanta

We like them okay. 😉

Taking Our Own Photos With The Jewelry

To make the jewelry “come alive” a bit more, I decided to take pictures of my girls (ages 3 and 10 months) playing with and wearing their great-grandmother’s jewelry, and use those as the backdrop for my shadow box. 

Wanting to stay frugal and not spend a ton of money, I assembled a casual white outfit for each girl. Berks: white t-shirt, white capris leggings, and a white flower headband; for Abby: white onesie, white shorts, and a white knotted headband, that was more of a white knotted necklace for 65% of the photo shoot. *Eye roll for babies finally figuring out that they don’t have to wear the accessories I put on them* 🙂

Dave and I took them to Piedmont Park here in Atlanta for the photo shoot on an overcast Sunday morning. We used Dave’s iPhone 7 Plus with it’s Portrait Mode (which I’m currently obsessed with) to get pictures that came out better than some professional photo shoots that we’ve paid for.  

Less than half an hour later, we were wrapped and on our way back home with some pretty gorgeous shots of the girls with their great-grandmother’s jewelry:

kids playing with old family jewelry in park in atlanta

cute baby playing with family jewelry in atlanta georgia park outside

girl child in park with jewelry and flower

Usually when printing out photos I’ll use Free Prints or Shutterfly when I want to print hard copies of my photos, but wanting to get started quickly on the project, I used the Walgreens Photo App to send the images to the Walgreens down my street. Because I only printed about 20 of them, they were ready for pickup in about 15 minutes (usually they tell you it will be about an hour for pick up). 

With the kids at the gym with Dave, I had the whole house to myself to assemble the project.

Step-by-Step Guide for DIY Shadow Box with Old Family Jewelry + Pictures of Your Kids Wearing It


Step One: Gather Your Supplies

old jewelry shadow box art project craft with kids

For this project I used:

  • One white shadow box (I purchased an 11″ x 14″ shadow box at Michaels for about $25 after we wrapped up our photo shoot because I wanted to complete the project that day, but you can find a bigger selection of shadow boxes on Amazon (sometimes for a little bit cheaper—yay!). The size of your Shadow Box should depend on the amount of jewelry you’re using. You don’t want all of the jewelry to lay completely flat on the bottom, but rather to fill up about 1-2 inches of the bottom of the box. If you don’t have much jewelry, go for a slightly smaller Shadow Box.)
  • Craft glue (For this particular project I used E6000 Craft Glue, which I happened to have on hand, but you can use anything as long as it sticks well to the back of your shadow box—felt, in my case and dries clear.)
  • The pictures that I printed of the girls in the jewelry
  • The actual jewelry itself (The shadow box that I’m making will go in a room with white and blue/teal decor, so I pulled out items in that color scheme. When in doubt, err on the side of too much white for most rooms, as it will make the project feel more fresh and modern.)
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That’s it!! I love minimalist-y projects. And up-cycling. And having an excuse to stare at pictures of my children. 

Anyways. On to…


Step Two: Create Your Photo Layout

diy shadow box picture craft kids

Open your shadow box, lay the back piece on a flat surface (make sure that the wall-hanging hooks on the back of the shadow box are in the proper direction for wall hanging—you definitely don’t want to start laying out and gluing if the hooks are upside down), and start working on your background design.

The number of pictures you use will depend on the size of your shadow box and the type of design you’re going for. You can layer pictures on top of one another, cut out pictures into a variety of different shapes and work them into a more eclectic collage, you can work some of the jewelry itself into the background with the pictures…really, the sky is the limit with how you lay out the pictures.

For this project, I opted to go for clean, straight lines to compliment the crispness of the white (and also because my 3 year old is currently obsessed with practicing her scissor skills, and I’m honestly not sure I could have located a pair of scissors even if I had wanted to). 

You’ll notice that in my design the photos don’t cover the entire back of the shadow box (there’s some blank, black space at the bottom). For my shadow box, I knew that would be a-okay since I had enough jewelry to cover it up completely. 

Play around with the photos until you find something you like and that works for the amount of jewelry you have. And then…


Step Three: Glue Pictures to the Back of the Shadow Box

Once you know what you’re layout will be, start gluing. 


Step Four: Touch Up Any Photo Edges

If you layer photos on top of each other like I did, you may find that a few of the photo edges aren’t fully glued down when you come to the end of the project. Take a few moments to locate any such edges and glue them down carefully. You want the finished background to be crisp and fully secured to the back of the shadow box.

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Step Five: Place the Bottom of the Back of the Shadow Box (the piece you just glued pictures to) in the Bottom of the Shadow Box Frame at an Angle

Like this:

(I got a little excited about arranging the jewelry and started with that before I realized that I needed to take a picture, hence the started jewelry-arranging before the official “Arrange the Jewelry” step. Speaking of which…)


Step Six: Arrange the Jewelry

shadow box craft with old jewelry

This was the most time-consuming part of the whole project for me because you have to do a bit of styling, which isn’t a natural strength of mine.

The steps that I took to arrange the jewelry in a way that I didn’t hate are:

  1. I started by dividing up the jewelry into like kinds so that I could easily mix different styles in the shadow box.
  2. Next, I put bigger pieces (long necklaces, broaches) down first (and the bigger, uglier pieces towards the back to fill up some space). 
  3. Then, I worked in some of the smaller pieces (bracelets, earrings, small pins, etc.) and interesting pieces that I wanted to make sure could be seen (a wrist watch that was my great-grandmother’s go-to casual watch—something that I know would mean a lot to my mom when she sees it). 
  4. Lastly, I put the back on, sat the shadow box on the table and looked at it, and then opened it back up to make small tweaks until it was just the way I wanted it to be


The Finished Product:

white shadow box with old family jewelry and pictures of family kids finished project

I put the back on one final time, locked it in place, and voila! A finished Mother’s Day gift that will be both sentimental and functional in my mom’s home as a new piece of guest room decor. 

AND…all accomplished in one day for only a little money (about $30 for the shadow box and the printed pictures).

I was even able to clean everything up and enjoy a little Sunday afternoon wine time (with my essential hedgehog fluffy socks, of course) before Dave and the kids got back from the gym. 

wine and comfy socks

Winning all around, y’all. 🙂



shadow box craft jewelry project kids

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  • Reply robin rue

    This is such a sweet idea. After my mom passed, we ended up with tons and tons of her old costume jewelry. I love this idea.

    July 25, 2017 at 3:10 pm
  • Reply Angela Tolsma

    What a wonderful idea! That’s a great way to keep a person presence alive and have a great memory for your daughters! I will definitely keep this in mind!

    July 25, 2017 at 3:55 pm
  • Reply Brittany Fryman

    What a beautiful way to pay homage to your grandmother and also declutter simultaneously. I have so many of my grandmother’s costume jewelry pieces too unfortunately, I don’t think my boys would want to dress up in it for a photo shoot 🙂

    July 25, 2017 at 4:35 pm
  • Reply Cecilia C. Cannon

    I haven’t made a shadow box before but this is so cute I would love to give it a try, for my daughters room too!

    July 25, 2017 at 5:16 pm
  • Reply aish das-padihari

    I don’t have a shadow box either but sounds like an extremely fun thing to do. Lovely post. Thanks you for sharing.

    July 25, 2017 at 10:52 pm
  • Reply andrea

    while i have not made a shadow box before this sounds like such a cool idea. i think this would be great for my friends with daughters. thanks for the share.

    July 25, 2017 at 11:54 pm
  • Reply Danielle

    This is pulling at my heart strings. I love how sentimental this is. Not to mention it’s fun for the kids and easy to do. I don’t think I have anything from my grandmother to do something like this.

    July 26, 2017 at 12:57 am
  • Reply Cindy Ingalls

    What a sweet idea, I never would have of this but it’s absolutely lovely!

    July 26, 2017 at 1:45 am
  • Reply AnnMarie John

    I think it looks amazing! It’s definitely a good way to keep memories and display them at home. The pictures are perfect, your kids are adorable! I would love to make this for the family!

    July 26, 2017 at 8:13 am
  • Reply Amanda Dorich

    What a fun idea! My grandmother recently passed away and we have all of her jewelry! I think I will photograph my kids wearing it for a keepsake!

    July 26, 2017 at 12:35 pm
  • Reply Kristina

    This is such a great and unique idea. Perfect for a gift too for a family member. I’d love to do this.

    July 26, 2017 at 3:06 pm
  • Reply Brittany

    I love shadow boxes! This is such a great idea! I love that you can show off memories like this every single day too. Makes it great!

    July 26, 2017 at 4:27 pm
  • Reply Lily

    I really love this idea, instead of throwing out items that have a sentimental value. Sometimes you just really don’t know what to do with the things, but I love how creative this is!!

    July 26, 2017 at 8:36 pm
  • Reply Heather McMechan

    This so precious! What an adorable sentiment.

    July 26, 2017 at 8:46 pm
  • Reply Amber Nelson

    This is such a great idea! I love memories like this. Shadowboxes are so much fun!

    July 26, 2017 at 9:50 pm
  • Reply Shannon Gurnee

    That is such a cute idea! My stepmom made my sisters and I something like this but without a picture in the background.

    July 26, 2017 at 10:22 pm
  • Reply Charlotte

    I love this idea! It’s so sweet and actually perfect for us as we have a lot of my nans old costume jewellery which would be perfect for this project! I have pinned this too!

    July 27, 2017 at 9:47 am
  • Reply Stacey

    This is such a clever idea! I have some old jewelry from my grandmother that I will never wear. I am going to try putting together a project like this.

    July 27, 2017 at 1:32 pm
  • Reply Jasmine

    I LOVE this DIY and I can totally see myself recreating it with my girls! I have SO much jewelry that my girls love to play and would be perfect for this DIY.

    July 28, 2017 at 12:03 am
  • Reply Alison | So Chic Life

    I love this!! I’ve been wanting to do something similar for my daughters but had no idea where to start. Pinned this for later too!

    July 28, 2017 at 3:57 am
  • Reply Krystle Cook

    This is such a great idea to preserve some of these items and to make something special. I need to think of doing this!

    July 28, 2017 at 11:43 am
  • Reply Cat

    This is such a lovely idea!! I am going to tell my sister in law about it and see if she does it with my niece!

    July 28, 2017 at 12:46 pm
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