It takes a vivid imagination to visualise a pair of red Tesla fender earrings or a canary-yellow Ferrari cuff, but CRASH jewellery is all about converting recycled metals into stunning pieces of artwork. Upcycling trash into treasure has its challenges, especially when it involves creating a range of stylish eco-chic jewellery using disused car parts. California-based jeweller Christi Schimpke is a metalsmith and for the past decade has been designing traditional pieces using silver and gemstones. The CRASH concept was inspired after moving her studio into a shared space with her husband’s body shop garage in Los Angeles, where she admired some of the beautiful vehicles that were brought in for repair. Fabricating disused metal to make jewellery seemed like an obvious idea to Schimpke, who appreciated the potential for using creative materials in her designs. She began experimenting with cutting, bending and sanding the scrap metal.
“The paint work is original factory and looks just like enamel. I love taking a ravaged section of the car like the fender, the hood or the door, and transforming it into something beautiful.”
Her passion for crafting metals and a natural love of skilful design turned out to be a winning combination and she now works with Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari and Tesla repair shops.
“My husband finds it comical that I nosey around his workshop looking at cars he hasn’t begun working on yet, in case I find some metal that might interest me.”
Schimpke particularly enjoys combining silversmith elements, gemstones and cabochons with car metal. One of her most popular designs is made using sterling silver connected with rivets to stainless steel from the wheel cover of a Mercedes G 550, and then attaching that to a welded
aluminium or steel cu . Handmade designs are then engraved through the car enamel to reveal the original silver metal underneath. The designs are all engraved on the inside or back with the car type and manufacturing date.
“Provenance is very important to me and I keep track of every piece of metal I have. I know exactly how it will behave when its welded, punched or polished.”
The showroom is based in West Los Angeles and a number of pieces from the CRASH range were recently exhibited in the Palm Springs Art Museum.
She often gets commissions from customers who want a reminder from their cars after they’ve been in an accident.
“I had a young client ask me if I could make something for his mother, from his father’s prized Miata convertible. His father had passed away and he liked the idea of immortalising his memory in a special piece of jewellery. I felt honoured to be part of the process.”
In a market swamped with massproduced pieces, it’s refreshing to find a designer with the vision and patience to create something stunning from pieces of discarded metal.