What I did with an heirloom piece…
Wide-eyed, I stared at the pendant I’d just inherited from my aunt. I knew the heirloom necklace was old–likely from the fifties or sixties. It was a large, circular, gold pendant of a tree of life. Gray pearls dotted the webbed branches and the trunk was carved with intricate grooves. Even I could tell it was a valuable, special piece. The only thing, I was twelve years old and felt like I was holding something from another planet.
What was I supposed to do with this thing?
My usual tween jewelry consisted of Swatch watches, jelly bracelets, or friendship bracelets I made with friends. The pearls on my new pendant were gray, and (can you believe it) when I was twelve, no one was really wearing gray. My current wardrobe was based on distressed denim jackets, mini skirts, Guess clothing, and all things neon.
Teens, today this would be like you wearing your Lokai or Alex and Ani charm bracelets and a family member comes and gives you a large, jeweled choker that doesn’t at all jive with your Converse and skinny jeans and off-the-shoulder-tops. It doesn’t fit you.
So, here’s what I did. I tucked the pretty tree heirloom into my jewelry box and let it shift to the back over time. All through high school and college, I would dip into that box almost everyday. The contents changed and grew as did. I added rings or pendants from boyfriends and a few usable pieces. In went my first good watch and a pearl necklace as a high school graduation gift. Then, my first silver bangle from Tiffany from a family friend. I added some of the classic and stylish everyday jewelry we wrote about in this post. All that time, my heirloom tree was there. It became something I saw so often, I never really noticed it anymore.
Until, I did.
About ten years ago, I saw a model wearing a necklace very similar to mine in a cool fashion spread. Hers was costume jewelry–something like you’d find at Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters. I realized I had a similar piece in my jewelry box, only mine was even better and more beautiful. Mine was real. As styles changed, my heirloom pendant was suddenly very much in style. So I pulled it out. What happened? Every time I wore the necklace, people would stop and ask where I’d gotten it. I layered it with smaller, dainter pieces. It looked great with a white tee shirt or a gray sweater (of which, I now owned about six.)
I still wear this pendant all the time. If you look closely at the pictures, you’ll see that one of the pearls is missing. I actually like it better this way. It reminds me that style does not have to be perfect, only personal. So I’ve never fixed it and never will.
Chances are, you will also receive family heirloom pieces. They might be jewelry or artwork. Maybe you’ll get fine china or silver. You might look at these items and think they don’t suit you at all. What should you do? Hold onto them a while. Tuck them away safely. If you receive tons and tons of stuff, keep the very best and it’s okay to share or donate the rest. That also honors your loved ones.
After a few years, you might find that as you’ve grown, you’ve also grown into your heirlooms. They have stayed the same but you have changed. And if they are not perfect, keep them anyway. Use them anyway. True beauty is rarely ever perfect.