Finding Inspiration: Vintage Jewelry Design

The evolution of a jewelry artist emerges over time and with experience. Inspired by all things artistic and creative, as a young art student beginning at the age of five, and in the many years to follow, I discovered the art of jewelry design. As I continued to explore the craft of making my own jewelry, specifically working with beads and metals, I once again discovered my niche: Vintage jewelry design!

Vintage Jewelry Design by Renee Prioleau, at
Learn how to make beautiful jewelry in my workshops at Beadfest in Philadelphia, April 9-12 and August 19-23. Click here to learn more about this exciting event!

My art classes over the years inspired my passion for color and design, while my indulgence in crafts developed my ability to conceptualize and create art. The art of jewelry design allowed me to merge both worlds of experience as an artist. 

Vintage Jewelry Design by Renee Prioleau, at

Now, where did the passion for vintage jewelry design emerge? As I reflect on this, I'm reminded of a vintage shop in New York City that I discovered when I was in college. An older gentleman who had immigrated from Europe probably in the 1920’s or 1930’s owned this fantastic shop filled with wonderful vintage beads, crystals, metals, findings, resin, and lucite. The store, which was in business for more than 60 years, was one of the oldest bead shops in New York’s garment district. I was totally enamored by all the treasures within my reach! My connection to vintage jewelry design was almost instant as the shop owner became my mentor. I remember my mom would often comment with laughter that he treated me like family.

Over time, my passion for vintage jewelry design continues to grow. I'm inspired by all things vintage: fashion, furniture, movies. I'm most inspired by the Victorian period television epics featured on Masterpiece Theater on public television, such as Downton Abbey, Cranford, and Mansfield Park. There you find inspiration in the fabric and tapestry of wardrobe and set design; the delicate feminine fashion accessories and the beautiful home furnishings. I also discover inspiration in nature and architecture through the naturally occurring color combinations and the visible textures of building structures, roads, and pathways. 

If you're interested and inspired about exploring the world of vintage jewelry design, you should consider joining us in April and August at Beadfest Philiadelphia where I’ll be teaching several vintage jewelry design classes. Hope to see you there!

Bio: Renee Prioleau is an accomplished jewelry designer in the Washington DC area. Her work has been featured at Nordstrom and is currently sold at many local vintage shops in the metropolitan area. She is the program director of The Bead Studio Inc., a nonprofit organization devoted to the art and culture of beadwork. The organization provides community outreach and education programs for adults, youth, and individuals with special needs, and gives philanthropic support to bead-related organizations.


Art to Wear, Blog, Mixed-Media Jewelry


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