From Breadboards to Brooches: Making Jewelry with Amanda Preske

By Joe Bailey
University Communications

When walking by the Common Market, you may have noticed one of the University’s quirky little treasures: jewelry hand-made from old circuit boards. Many have speculated on who creates these works of art. Could it be a computer science student, or perhaps a studio art major? Actually, these little treasures were designed by third-year chemistry doctoral student, Amanda Preske. Preske is a student in the Krauss Lab, and when she’s not in the lab making carbon nanotubes for use in artificial electron transfer chemistry, she’s in her workshop making jewelry. Her creations are on display in the art cart on the first floor of Wilson Commons, next to the Common Market, and made their debut during the holiday shopping fair in December.

Preske got her inspiration to make circuit boards into jewelry at an early age, while watching her brother tear apart an old computer. She saw beauty where others might have just seen silicon and metal. Another important source of materials for her has been the E-cycling program, both at her alma mater, RIT, and here at the U of R. Electronics are recycled and repurposed in this program, and if the circuitry catches her eye, she’ll scoop it up, encase it in epoxy resin, and turn it into an earring or necklace. It is necessary to encase the circuits in epoxy not only to produce the characteristic glossy shine, but also to protect wearers of the jewelry from sharp soldered contacts, or other loose circuit elements.

Wherever someone has an old computer, she’ll be right there waiting to repurpose the breadboard into art. As Preske told this reporter, “why be boring, when you can embrace your quirks?”

Preske’s creative business is made possible by Etsy, which is a specialized website similar to eBay. Etsy allows artisans to sell high-quality hand-crafted pieces on a larger scale than they would be able to otherwise. In fact, the art cart where Preske sells her jewelry on campus is sponsored by Etsy’s Rochester branch. Cash or credit are currently the only accepted forms of payment, however, it is likely that flex will be accepted as a form of payment at promotional events in the future. Preske plans to continue her business in the future, even once she graduates with her doctorate. She has always enjoyed hands-on projects such as this jewelry business.