Dead computer hardware doesn't have to end up in the scrapheap. And, it really shouldn't considering the toxic materials and precious metals inside most computer equipment.
TechRepublic members have long debated the best way to dispose of computers that are at the end of their life cycle. Some donate the equipment to local charities or sell the machines to employees. And once the computers no longer function, many turn to local recyclers. A few artists and craftspeople however, have found a unique way to breath new life into dead computer hardware—jewelry.
This gallery showcases computer jewelry from Violets new Vintage and 2Roses Jewelry. From bracelets and cuff links made from circuit boards to necklaces and rings full of resistors, these beautiful, unique creations illustrate a very creative way to reuse old computer hardware.
I reached out to the individuals behind Violets new Vintage and 2Roses Jewelry in separate email interviews. I asked them why they started working with old computer parts, where they get their materials, and if they take any special precautions when working with them.
What made you think about creating jewelry from old computer parts?
Betsy Berberian, the artist behind Violets new Vintage, began making computer jewelry thanks to a friend and fellow jewelry maker who was moving. "She gave me a box of jewelry components she didn't want anymore," Berberian answered. "The box was filled with ceramic circuits and other components she used back in the 1980's. I was captivated by the beautiful patterns on the tiny circuits, and I started making jewelry from them."
Corliss and John Rose, owners of 2Roses Jewelry, decided to use old computer and electronic pats "because they literally define the 21st century and our technological society." According to the pair's artist statement:
"The materials are at once precious and disposable, hidden yet everywhere, defiant of expectation and conforming to a relentless precision. The works of High Tech Fusion explore the relationship of computerization and the concepts of contradiction, tradition, expectation, conformity and value in personal adornment."
Photo credit: 2Roses Jewelry
Where did you get the computer equipment from which you made the jewelry?
The Roses have received "grants and sponsorships from electronics manufacturers who have donated non-conforming parts." In return, the pair makes "custom jewelry or an object d' art for the donor from the supplied parts." The Roses also credit the sponsors during their touring museum exhibitions.
When Berberian's original supply of ceramic circuits began to run out, she started cutting designs from the circuit boards inside her own dead computers or bought scraps on eBay.
Do you take any special precaution when working with the old computers?
As there are often hazards fumes and toxic materials floating around jewelry and art studios, both the Roses and Berberian were already taking safety precautions when practicing their craft. "We wear latex surgical gloves, eye protection and respirators," the Roses wrote.
Berberian is accustomed to working with dangerous material. "I used to make neon signs and had to work with mercury, high voltage electricity and asbestos; so working with the circuits doesn't seem dangerous to me."
While some of Berberian and the Rose's creations are art objects, many are made to be worn and enjoyed as functional devices. If you're looking for a unique geek gift, a set of circuit board cuff links or a necklace made from resistors certainly fits the bill.
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.