You may think that the twin spheres of electronics and fashion might have little in common. Agreed, the German band Kraftwerk looked pretty stylish behind their four synthesisers, and David Bowie managed to combine electronics and looking fabulous in his own Berlin period… but overall, these two spheres tend to stay far removed from one another.
However, at Hi5 we were intrigued to note two ways in which the worlds of electronics and fashion have indeed recently intersected… in jewellery.
An LED is a light-emitting diode – in simple terms, a semiconducting device that emits light when a small electric current passes through it.
Particles carry the current and combine within the semiconductor material – electrons and holes – and produce light. The gap between the energy bands that contain these electrons and holes will determine the energy of the photons and therefore the wavelength of the light particles emitted by the LED, which will in turn then determine the colour of the light.
You have seen the utility of LEDs everywhere in our lives – from the lights in TV remotes and the domestic hi-fi through to more common use in strip lighting for the home and garden.
However, an intriguing and relatively new use has been in jewellery design. LEDs light up…. and of course the central purpose of jewellery is also to shimmer and shine, to Illuminate the wearer. And so, more and more jewellery designer and manufacturers are realising the benefits of incorporating LEDs into their designs, forming an easy, economic and ergonomic solution to that core desire to brighten any room with the jewellery that one wears, when you walk in.
LED jewellery is now becoming more and more popular, literally lighting up the party, as part of rings, bracelets and necklaces. The utility of LED jewellery is that it is able to glow, and also to flash on and off, so that these battery-operated, solid-state items form conversation pieces, and provide an interesting – if unlikely – use for the humble light emitting diode … elevating the mood, and providing a short circuit to chi chi chic.
At the other end of the lifespan of electronics and we come to PCB jewellery. This is very different to LED jewellery in that it really relates to recycling old electronics and fashioning them into new jewellery items to wear as electronic, eclectic accessories.
As we know electronic waste (or E-waste) is a major concern at the moment, and one that we take seriously at Hi-5. Electronics devices are designed, more and more, to be simply disposed of at the end of their life-span so we are always keen to learn about more and more clever ways of using these electronic components. And one way of re-processing the processors (as it were) is turning them into jewellery… where the circuit boards can light up once more, as part of an earring set or necklace.
You will find maybe examples of PCB jewellery available online – ingenious jewellery designers and manufacturers now working with printed circuit boards in the same way they might use silver, or gold, in their jewellery.
Alternatively, you may like to design some items yourself, as it really isn’t as complicated as you might think. Maybe you’ve got an old PC tower sitting in a corner… simply take out the motherboard and you have all the material you need to get going. Find the most attractive bits that you want to use and then cut them down to size (this bit might be tricky… as we know at Hi5, PCBs are tough… and you will need to secure the board and use a good quality saw). You’ll then need to clean the pieces of the PCB, using a specialist knife to cut out the more prominent circuits and chips that might get in the way of the final design, and smooth down the sharp edges.
Then cut to shape, and perhaps even sand the edges down to the copper to allow you to solder smaller pieces together, to make 3D shapes such as pyramids and cubes… all the better to dangle from the ears. Finally, sand the jewellery down to that it doesn’t scratch and drill holes for earring fasteners, or to link to a necklace.
So… electronics and fashion are not the unlikely bedfellows you might imagine. Wear your LED jewellery and PCB jewellery with pride and perhaps even mix and match the two to celebrate your inner glamorous geek. That neon dancefloor will never know what hit it!