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The tradition of passing down family heirlooms from generation to generation has been a treasured ancestral custom for centuries.
Handing down our most valuable possessions and treasured keepsakes, especially jewelry, is a traditional way to pass down precious memories and sentimental stories and keep history and family legacies alive for our loved ones.
Think about the legacy of England's Royal family jewelry. Not the Crown Jewels, of course; those belong to the Institution of Monarch. But the jewelry Queen Elizabeth II had in her personal collection before her death in 2022.
The stories that go with these precious jewels are legendary. And thanks to modern technology, we can witness these stories as we see generations of Royals wearing them.
Photo via Kate Middleton Style - Photo Credit James Whatling
From Queen Elizabeth II to Princess Diana, to the Queen Consort Camilla and even Princess Kate, we listen to stories in the news, see countless photos in magazines and newspapers and are privy to a plethora of images all over the internet in witness to some of the most glamorous jewelry in history as they wear it to coronations, births, weddings, funerals and even more mundane events such as polo matches and dignitary dinners. Well, those aren't really mundane events, are they? But you get what I mean.
These famous pieces of jewelry are not only legendary, but they are also synonymous with the Royal Family - their past, present and future. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before we’ll see little Charlotte grown up enough to adorn herself with many of the same pieces as her Mum, Grandmother and Great Grandmother.
So what about regular people? You know, like you and me. We also hand down our family keepsakes and treasures, just like the Royals. Although our family heirlooms may not cost as much or be museum-worthy, they are still significant.
Let me take you on a little deep dive into the world of heirloom jewelry and share the importance of preserving your family history through the sentimental jewelry pieces you cherish so much.
Cozy up as I touch on why the memories and treasured stories that go along with our heirloom jewelry touch our hearts and fill us with so much joy and what makes our jewelry - especially our pearl jewelry - pieces for the ages!
Typically, heirloom jewelry is a piece of jewelry that’s been in the family for generations that holds significance and sentimental value. It could be a necklace, bracelet, ring or any other piece of jewelry handed down from parent to child, grandparent to grandchild, aunt to niece, or big sister to little sister. There aren’t really any rules about who hands down what.
Heirloom jewelry is much more than expensive pieces chock-full of diamonds, emeralds, rubies and pearls. It's a meaningful and sentimental piece of jewelry its owner cherishes - valuable beyond price - that touched the heart of the one it adorned. To the extent that this person deems it valuable enough to pass along to another.
As a cherished reminder of our ancestors and a symbol of family history, heirloom jewelry is a way to connect with our past. Memories and stories from our loved ones help preserve our family history. And it seems that jewelry, more than many other mementos in our life, holds a special place in our hearts.
We wear jewelry to mark special occasions, to feel closer to our loved ones and to express our individual style and personality. Jewelry makes us feel good. It brings us joy and makes us happy!
I know I have a sentimental connection with many pieces in my jewelry collection - especially many of my pearls!
Passing down our jewelry to family members and loved ones ensures that these personal and emotional connections are continued. The stories that go with these pieces of jewelry are just as priceless as the jewelry itself.
Heirloom jewelry is often passed down through the generations because of its symbolic value.
Passing down jewelry, such as pearls from a wedding day, ensures that the memories and stories associated with these pieces of special jewelry are preserved for future generations.
Photo credit: Fearless Photographers
Imagine you’re newly engaged, and you’ve just been gifted your grandmother’s wedding ring. Your grandparents have been married for over 60 years, and now you are being given this special ring - and the story that the two of them always tell together - to go along with it.
Since you were a small child, you remember your grandfather telling the heartfelt story of how he worked for over a year, saving every penny he could just to pay for the ring before asking your grandmother to marry him. He always recounts how he lost this very ring on the way to the church to marry your grandmother. And, as his eyes start to mist up and a slight grin comes across his mouth, he continues to tell you how terrified he was that she wouldn’t marry him without the ring!
The rest of the story, as your grandmother always jumps in to finish, is how as luck would have it, two guests attending the wedding saw it glimmering on the steps as they walked into the church. They picked up the ring and handed it over to the pastor. “Saving the day and the marriage!” your grandmother always says with a little wink!
These stories and their sentimental value are priceless. And the jewelry involved plays a large part in keeping the stories alive.
So now that you know the historical and sentimental value behind passing down heirloom jewelry to your loved ones, it’s time to talk about how and when to pass it down.
First and foremost, having open and honest conversations with your family members will help make sure that each person feels heard and that the distribution method is fair and equitable.
Here’s my thoughts and a little run down to help you out when you’re thinking about gifting someone your beloved jewelry or leaving it in a will to members of your family.
Many times, there’s the financial value of your precious jewelry to consider when gifting these pieces. You don’t have to be of Royal blood to have jewels of value. But occasionally, passing down heirloom pieces of jewelry can be a way to provide financial security for future generations depending on the type of jewelry it is.
Frequently there’s jewelry such as an antique diamond engagement and wedding ring set or a luxurious strand of heirloom pearls, like our stunning Hanadama Pearls, that can definitely be worth some MOOLAH!
Other heirloom jewelry, including antique, rare collectible jewelry or pieces made with precious metals and unique gemstones or pearls, are pieces you may want to have appraised before handing them down or putting them in your will to leave to a relative because, simply put, financial topics can sometimes be a bit difficult for families to discuss.
*Side Note - It can be a very wise decision, if you haven’t already done so, to have your jewelry appraised so you know the true value of what you have.
On the flip side, you also don’t have to have jewelry that’s of exponential value in order to consider it heirloom jewelry. Many pieces of jewelry are sentimental pieces to someone and have no large monetary value at all. Yet many still consider jewelry ‘heirloom’ if the jewelry is a piece that’s been passed from generation to generation or that has a special meaning (or a great story!) to someone in your family.
Handing down your treasures, namely your heirloom jewelry, can be a delicate and emotional process, so it’s important to approach it with care and thoughtfulness. For this reason, it’s important to plan ahead.
Have conversations with family members about such things as,
It’s always wise to have conversations with your family members about the significance of the pieces of jewelry you wish to hand down to them and the responsibilities that come with its ownership.
As I mentioned earlier, planning ahead, having open conversations with everyone and considering the family members involved and even the wishes of the original owner (in case the original owner isn’t you) will help you pass down your heirloom jewelry in a way that honors your family history and strengthens your family connections for generations to come.
There are many different occasions that are appropriate for passing down heirloom jewelry. Some of the more common times are during special occasions such as birthdays, weddings, births, graduations, anniversaries, special family holidays and even family reunions.
These are all special times when people pass down their heirloom jewelry, but the most important time is when it feels right for you and your family and fits with your values, traditions and lifestyle.
Since I’m so immersed in the world of pearls, and because they are such a symbolic and oftentimes coveted family heirloom, I enjoy getting to hear how many cultures around the world have specific ways of passing down jewelry and other important items as part of a family tradition.
In Western cultures, wedding rings are often passed down through the generations as a way to honor the commitment and love of previous generations.
Gifting a strand of lovely Akoya pearls to a daughter for her college graduation or upon her wedding day is still a rather common tradition here in the U.S. as well. (And we’ve got some great ones for you, too!)
No matter how or when heirloom jewelry is passed down, the tradition of sharing jewelry with your loved ones is a powerful way to honor your family history and create a sense of connection between generations.
By continuing - or even starting - this tradition yourself, you can ensure your family’s legacy and heritage are preserved for future generations to come. It’s the ultimate way to recycle and reuse. And re-tell a tale or two!
Now is the best time to start your family legacy of passing down heirloom jewelry. I suggest pearls - of course - and I’m here to help answer any questions you may have.
Honor the past. Plan in the present. Protect the future.
Here’s to Timeless Traditions!
Until Next Time,
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