I’m a “keeper.” Not a hoarder, mind you, but a keeper. I hang on to those small things that remind me of someone special. A wedding ring, a thimble, a hospital baby bracelet. Little objects that take me on a memory journey of things they’d told me about their lives, stories I’ve heard about them, or moments we shared.
Antique malls are filled with tiny treasures like these, but the context is long gone. They’ve become just “things.” A few years ago I decided to do something with a these special items. Something that would take them out of the cupboard, out of the box, and make them a part of my life. I wanted to carry them with me, not as a talisman, but as a happy reminder of who they were and who I am.
A few decades ago, my Dad had a very special gift made for my Mom. He took his mother Isabelle’s delicate gold watch chain to a jeweler and had it made into a multi-strand bracelet, to which he added a jeweled charm engraved with their anniversary date. Now my great niece, Sophie Isabelle, connects with these grandmothers when she wears her bracelet. Pretty perfect, right?
So, inspired by what my Dad did, I’ve created a few “new” jewelry items that have pulled together treasured keepsakes with new or upcycled items from my own jewelry box.
I saw ads for stack rings everywhere, but not until I saw one from Love Audrey Rose did I envision using the heirloom rings I had to create my own stack of awesome. I knew I had the makings of a tower of delicate unusual rings.
Here’s my stack ring collection. I wear them all or just a few or in different combinations. Love them. From top to bottom: a mine cut diamond ring and a pearl ring from my grandmother, my Dad’s wedding band, a ring with a remnant opal from an estate sale ring I bought with my sister-in-law Shirley, my Mom’s wedding band, and my original wedding band with an added stone from my father-in-law’s Shell Oil service pin.
The pearl ring was the first ring I acquired, and it is probably my favorite. My grandmother Flo received it when she turned 13 in 1904, and she gave it to me when I turned 13 in 1964. The funny part of the story is that she told me she never liked the ring. She wanted roller skates!
I love wearing my parent’s wedding rings and thinking of them as being together forever He passed in 2012, and she joined him in 2018.
I was interested in using a variety of “charms” in a toggle clasp necklace and thought is would be fun to use a gold rope chain that I wore infrequently. All the jeweler needed to do was switch out the lobster claw clasp for a toggle and spring ring combo. It has proved to be both versatile and attractive.
I have several charms, but the three pictured here are my favorites. One is a pearl pendant made from the sole surviving pearl earring from a set Ken bought on a trip to Boise. They were lovely, and I was sick when I lost one. I feel much better now! The center charm is made from a cabochon ruby my Dad gave me and a single cuff link of his grandfather’s. The third was a opal pendant I made when our son Kevin was born.
When my nephew married, I gave him the set of engraved cuff links I had from his great-great grandfather, my great-grandfather, John Esmon. I loved the Gibson Girl single cuff link I had left, and it’s been so much fun to wear.
Going though a box of family keepsakes, my husband asked if I had any thoughts on what to do with a hospital baby identification bracelet. From the 1950s, and definitely a boy’s, it might have been his, his brother Jerry’s, or his brother Joe’s. I knew a shadow box was not what either of us needed, so I suggested a fun, casual necklace “in memory” of all the boys. Perfect with jeans and a chambray shirt, and I love it.
I’ve made three other necklaces that I really enjoy wearing. One is pearl and amethyst and was made from my great-grandmother’s small brooch. The clasp was broken and many little pearls were missing, but with a few repairs, it has been a sweet and romantic piece to wear.
I love to sew, and when my niece Shannon gave me my husband’s great-grandmother’s thimble, I was so pleased! I added a wooden needle, a gift from my friend Hilary, and some buttons and small brass safety pins to a leather cord necklace. If you don’t quilt or sew, it might not be right for you, but it’s a winner for me!
My sister-in-law Pat gave us some things from the old family trunk. One item was a small orb watch fob that had been among Pat & my husband’s grandmother’s things. So, whose was it? Best we can determine from photos, it could have been her husband’s (grandfather James McWilliams) or her father’s – both were photographed with pocket watch chains showing! The simple addition of a gold plated paperclip chain has made a great necklace. And it looks amazing paired with my toggle clasp charm necklace!
I have really enjoyed transforming my treasured keepsakes into special and beautiful items. Yes, I love history and genealogy, so the heirloom pieces are meaningful to me even if not considered valuable. I encourage you to look a the small treasures you keep hidden away or forgotten and consider giving them a slight makeover. You’ll be surprised how much you will enjoy the creative process and wearing a link in your family chain.