Meet the woman who makes jewelry out of shotgun shells

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I first heard of Laura James when my cute boyfriend bought me one of her handmade bracelets. I went to get the bracelet resized and was shocked at what I saw: beautiful, handmade jewelry that didn’t cost more than my rent.

laura james earrings

(Seriously, she has pieces for $30. That’s like, only three salads and five caramels from Chopt.)

Laura James Jewelry location

Not only are Laura’s pieces affordable, her store is also super laidback. Laura James Jewelry is basically the only jewelry store I feel comfortable going into wearing my typical outfit of jeans and a Bojangles’ T-shirt (besides maybe Claire’s).

Laura opened her shop in 2005. Laura James Jewelry is tucked away in Dilworth in the same complex as Something Classic. I met with Laura (who has an adorable Mississippi accent, by the way) to ask her some questions and touch all of her jewelry. Here’s what I learned:

laura james jewelry entrance

My first question for Laura was “Why did you decide to open your shop in Dilworth?”

Laura James: “I feel like it really makes sense for what I do. My pieces have a handcrafted, artisan feel and this neighborhood understands that. Dilworth is also historic and a lot of the pieces I use are vintage. This is a good spot for me.”

laura james jewelry display

Next, I asked Laura how she got her start in the jewelry making business.

Laura explained that she has memories of sitting on her bed and taking apart jewelry with her dad’s tools. Later in life she started making jewelry again, this time with her own tools. She said that people would stop her on the street and ask her where she got her pieces. That’s when she knew she had found her niche.

jewelry making supplies

Laura then decided to go to Penland School of Crafts in Asheville to study metalworking. Although, disappointingly, she did not learn how to make spoons and guns, she did hone her jewelry making skills. But then Laura surprised me by saying that metalworking is only a small part of what she does. Apparently her specialty is reworking antique jewelry as well as turning random objects into wearable pieces. Laura took me around her shop to show me what she meant.

Here are just a few of the objects that Laura has turned into jewelry:

(1) Curtain rod rings

I don’t own curtains and therefore don’t know the correct name for these. But I would wear them.

curtain rod jewelry

(2) Chandelier pieces

Laura says that she uses these a lot but chose this particular chandelier because it’s rare to see a dark colored crystal.

jewelry made of chandeliers

(3) Shotgun shells

Laura’s dad gave her these shells from Mississippi and they are awesome.

shotgun shell jewelry

(4) A metal part of a horse saddle

Let’s just hope she doesn’t make an earring out of this monster.

jewelry out of horse bridle

(5) Coins

Laura’s coins are actually her grandmother’s from 1915. Now they are a part of some of her best-selling pieces.

coin jewelry

(6) Shoe clips 

Apparently in the olden days people used to put clips on their shoes. Is this like today’s equivalent of wearing mismatched laces?

shoe clip jewelry

(7) Old arcade game tokens

Laura uses a lot of these tokens in her new line of kid’s jewelry. I think she should call it “Laura Jr.”

shotgun shells and coins

Laura Jr. Jewelry

Laura has a ton of other odd knickknacks in her workshop that she plans to turn into pieces. I saw some antique charms and a piece of broken pearl that I’m pretty excited to see transformed.

jewelry knickknacks

At the end of our conversation Laura looked at me and said, “I want to have pieces that no one’s ever seen before.”

I’m pretty sure she’s achieved that.

The remainder of this article will serve as my Christmas list for my friends and family:

laura james necklace

laura james rings

laura james earrings

Connect with Laura James Jewelry

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Mary Gross
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My name is Mary Gross and I am a copywriter, a craps player and an excellent napper.