The shiny copper penny… ubiquitous, little valued and surprisingly versatile.

In 1983 the U.S. mint, in a cost-cutting maneuver, began making pennies out of zinc, and plating them with copper.  Today, a pre-1983 one-cent coin, which is comprised of 95% copper, is actually worth nearly 2-1/2 cents in metal costs!

But if I may add my two cents, this little scrap of titian-colored metal can be transformed into some of the most attention-grabbing and beautiful jewelry you can imagine.

Pendants similar to these at were popular in the 1970s, and long before.  You do need a couple of items that might be out-of-the-ordinary for some crafters/makers, but they are worth their weight in… pennies.  I’ll be posting more blogs using these tools, so if you’re interested in exploring the virtues of the pretty penny, it might be worth investing a few red cents for these items.

2mm Steel letter stamps – I’ve found them for as little as $8 at Harbor Freight, here.

  • Steel block
  • Small ball peen hammer
  • Drill with small bits
  • Awl or center punch
  • Dremel or polishing cloth
  • Jump ring
  • Chain or cord

Let’s get to it!

Clean coins.  The easiest method I found is one that I use to clean my copper teakettle. In a small cup, dissolve ½ tsp. table salt in ¼ cup of vinegar.  Add pennies.  It will only take a few minutes to clean them up. Just dip and done! Rinse in clean water, and dry.

Side note: If you don’t rinse the pennies, they will turn that desirable verdigris patina.  We may use this for future projects!

Stamp letters.  The most difficult part is getting them evenly spaced and straight.  One suggestion: Don’t be too picky.  Second suggestion: Be patient!  Place the stamps on the penny; strike with the hammer with certainty, but only once or twice.  You don’t want a double–strike, it will blur your letter.  Third: Be prepared to practice, or ditch a few mess-ups.  It’s only a penny!

(There’s a video tutorial for another stamping project I did a few years ago here. )

Drill a hole.

Drilling tips:

Mark the spot with a permanent marker.  Use an awl or center punch to dent the spot and keep the drill bit from wandering.

Tape down the penny or hold in place with a clamp.  Use a drop or two of machine oil on the bit to make the drilling easier. (I didn’t want to go to the garage, so I used peanut oil!)  Begin with a small drill bit, and if you need a bigger hole, drill a second time with a larger bit, this is much easier than drilling with the bigger bit from the start.

Polish penny and hang from a chain.

I use a dremel with a felt polishing tip, and some jewelry polishing rouge, but you can simply use a silver polishing cloth to buff the coin.  Oh, and use a fine-tip permanent black marker to make the letters more visible.  Connect to chain with a silver jump ring, and you’ve got a personalized keepsake.

They’re also really cool as a key ring charm.

Want more? Check out my book: A Penny Saved on iTunes.

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Get our your hammers and start picking up pennies… all day long, you’ll have good luck!