Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Natural Jewelry

This activity was originally created to supplement the family program, Camp Croods at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Activity Description

A shell bead necklace
Reconstruction of a shell bead necklace from Cro-Magnon, France, in the Hall of Human Origins exhibit. Smithsonian image.

Jewelry is one way that humans today can show self-expression. Ancient humans also created jewelry perhaps as a way of expressing themselves or to show their membership in a group. They would have used objects found in nature to make their jewelry. We saw an example during the Hall of Human Origins tour of a 30,000 year old necklace made of shells. There is also an example of a necklace made by humans in "The Croods: A New Age." The Bettermans wore a necklace with a blue stone as the centerpiece. If you were to create a piece of jewelry from nature, what parts of nature would you like to include? What type of jewelry would you like to make?

What You Need

  • Objects found in nature (rocks, leaves, flowers, twigs, shells, pinecones, acorns/nuts)
  • Bag or sack to carry your nature objects
  • String or yarn

Directions

  1. Go outside and collect objects from nature. With your bag or sack, go outside for a walk to look for pieces of nature that you could use to make a piece of jewelry. 
  2. Lay out all of your objects from nature you have found. Once you have collected all of your pieces, lay them out so you can see them all together at once. Make sure you look closely to see if any objects have dirt on them and any need to be rinsed off. Rinsing is an optional step, because maybe the dirt will be part of your jewelry’s charm! 
  3. Arrange your nature objects how you would like them to be for a necklace or other piece of jewelry. Decide what type of jewelry you would like to make. Will you make a necklace, bracelet, anklet, or a different type of jewelry? Lay out and group your pieces according to how you would like to set them up as a piece of jewelry. Will you have a center stone piece like the Betterman’s necklace from the movie? Will you have many pieces on one string like the shell necklace from the museum? 
  4. Using string or yarn, create a piece of jewelry from nature! Now it’s time to create your new piece of natural jewelry! Using your string or yarn, connect your pieces together so that you can wear them as jewelry. You might have to get creative in how you attach some of your nature objects; maybe you will need to tie your string or yarn around your nature objects. You might need to ask your grown-up to use a toothpick or needle to punch holes in your nature objects. Once you have completed your piece of jewelry, don’t forget to try your new piece of jewelry on, too! 

Take It a Step Further

  • Compare your new jewelry piece to the one in the museum. Those shells have been around for thousands of years! Will your piece of jewelry last as long, too? Why or why not? What parts of your jewelry will last longer than others?
  • Create other pieces of jewelry for others in your family using objects found in nature.
  • Share your natural jewelry with us! You can send a picture of your jewelry to nmnh-familyprograms@si.edu

Explore More

Resource Type
Hands-On Activities
Grade Level
K-2, 3-5
Topics
Social Studies
Exhibit
David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins