Aug. 27, 2012 at 5:13 PM ET
In a world where a bottle of high-end nail polish can sell for $250,000 and a T-shirt outfitted with diamonds can set a sister back $400,000, is it possible for cardboard jewelry to be perceived as a luxury?
You betcha, says California designer Keariene Muizz. In fact, she’s so convinced that the world of upcycling can meld harmoniously with the world of opulence that she’s confidently asking $20,000 for a bracelet she designed out of salvaged industrial cardboard.
Dubbed the “Zdenka cuff,” the bracelet features an eye-catching glass gem that is 2 inches in diameter, and it’s the most expensive upcycled item Muizz has ever tried to sell. (Most of her salvaged cardboard jewelry ranges in price from $60 to $350.)
“The main difference with this piece is that it’s actually more or less a work of art,” said Muizz, 34, of Newport Beach, Calif. “The other items can be reproduced, but this one is never going to be reproduced.”
But $20,000 — for cardboard? Can you even wear it out in the rain or wash your hands at a sink without being a nervous wreck? Actually, you can: Muizz seals all of her cardboard accessories with a high-varnish gloss that makes them chip-resistant and waterproof.
Muizz is also known for using materials like old denim, oil-painting scraps and other unexpected media to create jewelry, and she’s not the only artist out there who’s trying to take upcycling to new, luxurious heights. For example, designer Lisa Salzer of Lulu Frost repurposes shoe buckles from the 1920s and ‘30s into bracelets and necklaces, and numerous artists on websites like Etsy are selling cardboard necklaces, bracelets and earrings as well.
Muizz has a construction worker help her break down thick industrial cardboard with heavy-duty saws and drills — a process that can be so intense that the cardboard sometimes catches on fire while being cut. She said she just knows there are consumers out there who would be thrilled to give discarded waste a new, glamorous life.
“People might think that asking $20,000 for a cardboard cuff is absurd, but generating 251 million tons of trash as a nation each year is way more absurd when you think about it,” Muizz said. “The person who wears this cuff is going to be someone who cares about saving the planet while embracing luxury at the same time.”