An heirloom can be a profound connection to your history. Whether it’s your great-aunt’s pearls, your great-grandmother’s brooch, or an antique ring that’s been passed down for generations, an heirloom is a rare item to cherish. If it happens to be jewelry, it provides a tangible link to your female ancestors. If you are lucky enough to have something special given to you, you may fantasize about one day handing it down to your own child.
But for those who don’t have a family heirloom – perhaps it’s broken, left-behind, misplaced, or having one simply wasn’t a tradition to keep one – don’t feel left out. While you may not be able to wear it on your wedding day, no one’s stopping you to create one for your own children and grandchildren. In fact, we highly recommend it. You’ll be the first in your family to wear it and your legacy will be celebrated for many years to come. Here’s a simple guide to creating a beautiful and memorable heirloom.
Choosing The Piece
Anything of special value handed down from one generation to another is what defines this little family treasure. It can be anything from a patchwork quilt to a silver tea set – basically whatever the family deems to have sentiment and value.
The most important part of an heirloom is the emotional connection the family members have with it. However, as the mother of the bride or the bride herself, it is ideal to create an heirloom for generations of brides to come. If you want something that they can wear on their wedding day, jewelry is a perfect choice. You can also go for an exquisite bag to have with you at the reception or a sterling silver compact (possibly engraved). When picking for the right piece, think about something that the women in your family will be proud to pass down.
Style and Quality
It’s imperative to check for the quality of your family heirloom so you can be sure that it can stand the test of time. You can never go wrong by picking a piece of jewelry with a classic style and a solid structure, something your children and grandchildren can appreciate. A funky piece of costume jewelry will probably be outdated within a year, much less several decades. Even a sparkly tiara, regardless of its beauty, will go in and out of style in bridal fashion throughout the years ahead.
If you stick to something simple and elegant, you can be assured that it can be worn for years. A cultured pearl necklace is a fine example of a timeless piece. See old pictures of your grandmother and mother if you have any doubts – some styles never change. The general rule is that you must think timeless, not trendy.
Go for traditional shapes and lines if you are choosing a diamond, be it a ring or pendant. While there is a myriad of stone cuts available today, the round cut seems to be the most traditional, according to both Zales and Tiffany’s. Aside from rings and pendants, the tennis bracelet has been in vogue for years. When it comes to earrings, diamond studs with pearl drops make for a stunning, enduring choice, but the classic round-cut diamond studs remain to be unwavering classics.
As for brooches, pearls and diamonds always make the list for the most popular jewelry through the decades. Combined with a bow, floral, or wreath design, these pieces truly stand out. You may want to go for heart shapes, but one jeweler warned that these designs tend to get dated over time (think of Elsa Peretti’s heart shapes).
What To Ask Your Jeweler
Finding a piece of jewelry to be your family heirloom could be easier if you tell the jeweler about it. If you have an ethnic background you would like to honor, get recommendations from your jeweler about any precious metal or stone that is traditional in that culture. For example, in some Asian countries, jade is highly prized and might make a more symbolic family treasure.
It’s essential that you ask for any kind of warranty that comes with the piece. Some diamond jewelry comes with a ‘lifetime guarantee,’ but be sure to ask if it’s as good as long as the receipt is kept. If so, your daughter, or even your granddaughter, may be able to have it replaced or repaired.
Lastly, inquire which styles have come and gone quickly, and which ones have remained fashionable despite the changes in trends. The following are some suggestions that many jewelers agree to be popular for years to come:
- A Diamond Ring
- A Pearl Necklace
- A Brooch (pearl, diamond, diamond/platinum)
- A Gold or Platinum Band
- Pear Earrings
- A Diamond Tennis Bracelet
- Diamond Stud Earrings
- A Diamond Pendant
Add A Personal Touch
As a bride, you may wish to create something unique to be worn on your wedding day. If so, consider getting a fine quality charm bracelet, then add a single charm that is meaningful to you. As it gets handed down to the next generation of brides in your family, they can each add their own personal charm until the bracelet is full. Not only will this heirloom be exceptionally special, but each charm will connect the heir to her ancestors, including yourself.
There’s a great deal of thought that comes with creating an heirloom. However, it is a timeless way to connect with your loved ones and be a part of the future members of your clan. If nothing else, the heirloom will allow you to still be a part of your great, great, great-grand daughter’s wedding. The deep emotion you felt when you wore it on your special day will live on forever