Bang for your buck
Native Chicoan Kristina Brown makes custom jewelry, but it’s not your everyday silver or gold. Rather, her medium of choice is bullet casings, and her business name is, appropriately, Bullets N’ Bling. She uses the casings and Swarovski crystals to make everything from rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings to cuff links, tie clips and tiaras. Brown sells her wares from her website (www.bulletsnbling.com), as well as at Long Creek Winery and Ranch in Oroville. She prides herself on affordable, durable creations, and she enjoys making each one different from the last.
What got you into jewelry?
Ever since I was little, I made jewelry just for fun. I would make hundreds of friendship bracelets. I had so many that I didn’t know what to do with them.
Where do you get your materials?
I get my casings from the shooting ranges, and I do a lot of casing trades for jewelry. I have paid for some casings, but most of the time I can get my casings donated. People just throw them away, and the shotgun casings no one ever reuses, so I get to be picky and just pick out the ones I like. I only use the front part; the rest of it goes to recycling. I use all Swarovski crystals, and most everything is nickel-free.
What’s your favorite thing to work on?
I get lots of custom orders. People will send me the casings from their grandpa’s 21-gun [funeral] salute. It’s fun because people will get necklaces made, or those little charms for the window or the rearview mirror, so they can see it every day. I feel really honored to be able to do that. I think my prettiest products are my bracelets, but I love to make them all. My most popular casing is the .38 special federal.
How does the process work?
I take the spent casing, and cut it, and there’s a primer, which is the center piece, where I put the stone. The shotgun casings are also cut the same way. In the process of cutting it, it gets so hot it turns red. I have pliers because everything gets so hot, and in the summertime it’s not fun. I have to cut four casings for a bracelet, but usually I do it in bulk so I’ll do like 20 or 30, ’cause it’s exhausting. And then I’ll fit the stones to the centerpiece, polish everything, and then I find the setting that I want it in, and I set it in there. Then it takes 24 hours for the drying process, and then I link everything together. It’s definitely a lot of burnt fingertips, and flying casings through the shop, but it works.
How long does it take to make a piece of jewelry? Do your prices reflect that?
I tell people everything’s custom-made, so give it a week or so for me to make it. My highest piece is $40, and that’s my bracelets, and then my lowest price is probably my rings, which are $10. I wish I could sell the bracelets for cheaper, but they take so long. People tell me I should raise my prices all the time, and I say, “No. What would I want to pay?” I like cheap things, and I look for the best deal, so I try to keep my prices fairly reasonable.