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Treasured Chests: Jewelry Box

Despite Pandora's experience to the contrary, lovely little boxes tend to harbor far more treasure than trouble. And there's no reason the containers themselves shouldn't rival their contents in elegance and allure.

Photography: Johnny Miller

Source: Martha Stewart Living, February 2008


An A-list of embellishments -- velvets, ribbons, and blossoms; embossed papers that mimic the textures of shagreen, leather, and lizard skin; glossy spray-on auto touch-up paint contrasted with delicate rice-paper cutouts; and romantic inscription panels inspired by the labels on vintage French pillboxes -- can transform packages that seem pedestrian into true gems. Add a few equally refined elements inside to keep everything from brooches to billets-doux safe, snug, and in place and the final results of your handiwork may feel too pretty to part with. What better way to let someone you love know how very special he or she is?

Well Contained

A Shaker-inspired oval wooden box lined with velvet ribbon holds smaller variations of itself, romantic repositories for family heirlooms or favorite baubles. The exteriors of the small boxes are brightened with salmon-colored milk paint, a coating traditionally used by American rustic-furniture makers.

Custom-Made Accessories

Even the loveliest jewelry box can benefit from custom-made accessories that organize and protect precious baubles.

1. A paper mailing tube cut to fit within the box and covered with velvet makes storing link and charm bracelets easy.

2. Cushions of silk taffeta stuffed with cotton batting are ideal for layering small items; a ribbon sewn to one ensures that delicate rings won't get lost.

3. Ribbon scraps too pretty to throw away can be used to hold brooches and stickpins.

4. Lengths of richly colored velvet are rolled to store and display rings.

5. Found objects such as a porcelain watercolor palette, a vintage chess piece, and an abalone shell can be set into boxes to hold tiny items.

6. Buttons from a sewing kit are perfect for holding tiny pairs of earrings so they won't get lost or separated.


  • Fine-grit sandpaper

  • Oval Shaker-style wooden craft boxes

  • Salmon-colored milk paint

  • Paintbrush

  • Velvet ribbon

  • Scissors

  • Paste-style glue

  • Archival mat board

  • Craft knife

  • Fabric glue

  • Fabric


  1. Lightly sand exterior of an oval Shaker-style wooden craft box with fine-grit sandpaper; wipe clean. Apply 2 coats of milk paint if desired.

  2. Select ribbon, measure inside perimeter of box, and trim ribbon to this length. (If box is deeper than the ribbon is wide, cut 2 lengths; if shallower, trim ribbon).

  3. Apply paste-style glue, such as Yes Paste, to inside wall of box. Align edge of ribbon to top rim, and press so it adheres smoothly and ends abut cleanly. (If 2 lengths are needed, align first to bottom edge, then glue second ribbon on top, aligned with top edge.) Let dry.

  4. Trace bottom of box on archival mat board. Cut 1/8 inch inside the line. Test to see that mat board oval fits into box; trim as needed. Place board on wrong side of lining fabric, and cut an oval 1/4 inch wider all around. Apply fabric glue to board, and affix it to reverse side of fabric. Smooth fabric. Glue down cloth edging on back side. When dry, fit panel, fabric side up, inside box.

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