So much of life seems so disposable these days. From take-out containers to the constant stream of content that populates all our feeds. The way we consume can exhaust someone before they’ve even gotten out of bed. So we decided to hit pause and take a minute to reflect as a team on objects in our lives that we could-never-would-never part with. The ones that ground us at our core. Our family heirlooms.
Vanessa: Let me just start by saying that the puka shells necklace isn’t an heirloom. I got this in Mexico for $5 but who knows, maybe this travel souvenir will become an heirloom one day.
I come from a family of jewelers so I mostly inherited, well, jewelry. My mother got the pieces I’m wearing (minus puka shells) at various life milestones and passed them down to me.
I wear both rings and the bracelet everyday. The watch however isn’t in such great shape (speaking of which, Mary just dropped it on the floor) so I haven’t worn it in the past couple of years. It suddenly stopped working and it’s been deteriorating ever since but I remember liking the illusion of stopping time for a couple of microseconds everyday.
I’m close with my mum but our styles are on different sides of the spectrum. She’s much more feminine than me, always encouraged me to wear skirts and dresses. (Still does. In vain.) So I’m happy to inherit jewelry and not clothes because it’s a good common ground. Jewelry is the Switzerland of heirlooms.
I wear the pieces because it reminds me of my mum. My dad. And the fact that very few good things can come out of a divorce. But this is one of them. My mum probably doesn’t like to think of the pieces that my dad designed specifically for her because they’re now divorced. But she takes comfort in the fact that she emotionally repurposed these heirlooms by passing them on to me.
Times are changing at an increasingly scary speed. We’re all going to be remembered by some photos saved on some cloud. Or who knows, maybe holograms? Some alien, scary shit. No more letters. No more physical prints. The technological shift between the past generation and the next is so drastic that these heirlooms might really remind our children of slower, (better?) tactile times.
Christina: My mom gave this jacket to me! She gives me a lot of her old clothes (or I steal them). She owned this jacket when she was my age. It’s funny because I think her style was really similar to mine when she was younger. We both love things that are oversized, and we love pieces that are really classic.
My mom and I are close, and we have very similar taste and style. Hence, me stealing her entire wardrobe. She’s got the best archive. Neither of us are very sentimental, but I do like wearing things that remind me of her.
I generally like the idea of taking good care of your clothing and handing it down when you’re finished with it. It’s more special than buying fast fashion, and it’s good for the environment!
I wear this jacket all.the.time. Wouldn’t you?
Sarah: I think my mom gave me this Chloe purse 6 or 7 years ago. Every so often she does closet clean outs and I get her hand-me-downs!
I never use it, I don’t know why! I think it’s so pretty, but it just sits in my closet. The one time I did use it I almost lost everything in it. It’s not the most secure bag, ha, maybe that’s why I don’t wear it.
I’m my mom’s mini me, my sisters and dad always say we’re the same person. I have a few hand me downs from her, some I sell, some I keep, some I wear all the time.
Gabby: My grandfather bought this gold cross as a gift from Italy for my grandmother. It was recently passed down to me after my grandmother passed. I think it was my love for gold and everything Italian that drew me to this piece.
I was brought up in an Italian American home where big families, tradition and Sunday dinners were highly valued. My mother, just like myself, held a very close relationship with my grandmother. A type of relationship where you spoke more than once a day, enjoyed the company of one another as friends, shared secrets with and relied on them for everything. I would say that my mother is “my person.” We have a very close bond as mother and daughter but also as friends. Besides this piece, my mother has also passed down to me her distinctive laugh, obsession of red lipstick, good legs, instigating personality, recipes, and don’t take life so seriously approach. I am so proud of who my mother is and am very lucky that she is my mother.
Bogdana: My mom made this shirt for me about five years ago, while I was still studying in Kiev — the geographical, cultural and political capital of Ukraine. Where I come from, people aren’t as connected to the native culture, so she thought this shirt will be my passport to Ukrainelandia, I guess.
I’ve only wore it once. Thank God my mom doesn’t know English, otherwise it’d make her upset. It’s just not a very casual piece, you see?
My mother is a creative, who has never been outed to the world, but, for me, she knitted sweaters (still does), beanies, scarves, sewed dresses (even the one for my prom. Stop laughing.), she also made a gorgeous flower crown for my wedding, which you might have seen already on the site. I grew to love these objects so much over the years. They represent all the hard work she put in my well-being. When I was a kid though, I always resented her making me stuff instead of buying something more “machine-made-like”. That’s exactly what I’d tell her. Dumb, I know.
When I look at this embodied shirt or, Vyshyvanka, as we call it, it makes me proud of where I come from. I wasn’t raised a patriot but this piece reminds me of culture and traditions that were passed down to generations of hard-working and fun-loving people of my country. Just look at this shirt! Imagine wearing it every day back in 16th century. So much more fun than a navy tee I’m wearing right now.
I think family is truly a backbone of society. Being connected to your roots makes you more respectful, more thoughtful. No matter how stupid and rebellious we become when we’re young, we thrive to be around people who love and understand us. I think that heirlooms of any kind make us look back and connect to those people.
I have a few other embodied or hand-made pieces sent to me from mom or grandma, and it makes me cry every time I get them in a mail. I feel as if I almost could touch their hands, because they spent so much time working on that particular thing, holding it, that it captured a part of them.
Emily: This ring was a gift to my grandmother, from her uncle who was a jeweler, for her 13th birthday. In those days, girls were not Bat Mitzvah’d in the Jewish faith the way they are today, so it was something special he gave to her to signify her adulthood in the Jewish faith. My grandmother gave the ring to my mother at her Bat Mitzvah, and my mom gave it to me for mine. If I have a daughter, I will pass it to her too.
I really only bring the ring out on special occasions. It’s something I cherish and I treat my everyday jewelry a bit too casually for this to have daily wear and tear. I’ll pull the ring out if I’m getting dressed up, or attending a family event with strong significance.
It reconnects me to my Jewish faith—which is honestly something I don’t feel connected to regularly. And it reminds me of my grandmother!
These objects are all vessels for stories, and that’s why I value them so much. They’ve allowed pieces of the past to be shared with me at pivotal moments in my life, making those experiences all the more special. Storytelling is one of those qualities that makes us human and to be able to assign some higher value to an object takes it from being just a material good to being something that can connect you to family, culture, religion, faith…that’s incredibly powerful…especially living in a time of crazy consumerism.
Veronica: This ring was given to me by my maternal grandfather.
The three diamonds are from my great-grandmother’s wedding ring. Anatasia found herself as a young widow with four kids in war torn Croatia (then Yugoslavia). She made the painful decision to leave her children with her parents in Croatia and move to Los Angeles, with the hope of establishing a better life for her family. That’s where she met her second husband, gave birth to my grandfather, and was able to earn enough money to move her other children to Los Angeles, where my family has lived ever since.
Anatasia passed away while my grandfather was fighting in WWII, supposedly from the stress of not knowing if she’d ever see her youngest son again. On my grandfather’s wedding day he re-set his mother’s diamonds into this ring as a gift to his bride, my grandmother. They were married for 68 years until my grandfather passed away earlier this year.
This ring is the most valued thing I own. I wear it everyday and think of my grandfather every time I catch a glimpse of it — so dozens of times a day.
My grandfather’s passing was the first major death in my life. You know the phrase, not a day goes by I don’t think of you? Well, I didn’t know the truth of that phrase till now.
I read somewhere that grief is simply all the love you have for someone, without a physical place to put it. That’s why grief can become so overwhelming, your emotions build to a crescendo without an escape.
Wearing this ring everyday allows me to release the grief (or love) bit by bit.
It also reminds me everyday (particularly with the current state of affairs) that all any parent wants is a better life for their children. My great-grandmother risked everything for her children and I hope on some level she knows our family is still benefiting from her courage and strength.
Mary: My heirloom was passed down to me by my mom and they originally belonged to my Mimi (my maternal grandmother). My Mimi received both the trinity bracelet and trinity ring from her husband, my Pop Pops (grandfather) on their one year wedding anniversary. My mother gifted them to me because they always have reminded me of my Mimi.
When I was a little girl, I always knew when my Mimi was about to enter a room, because the bracelets would jingle and she would always let me play with her trinity ring. I couldn’t understand why the three intertwined rings couldn’t come apart!!
I honestly don’t wear either of the items as much as I should, because they really are so special and beautiful pieces! Even though I’m 25 and I should be able to keep track of my own items, my mom generally keeps them at home in her safe for me… Thanks mom! :)
Unfortunately, there has been a lot of loss in my family and although heirlooms are generally a materialistic item, each piece that has been passed down to me has a story and a deep meaning and because of that, my heirlooms hold a very special place in my heart and remind me how lucky I am to have these pieces that remind me of my family and their history and journey through life.
Carie: As an adult, I’m in the very fortunate position of having smaller fingers than the rest of the alive and kicking women in my family, so I’m able to snatch up most of the rings. The pearl ring is one my mom gave me that was hers when she was in high school. The square one is more of an heirloom as it was my paternal grandmother’s, who I was quite close to. She was very classy and got dressed up just to sit and smoke in her apartment and listen to music.
I was quite close with my grandma, who lived with us at the end of her days, so we spent a lot of time together. She always wore a lot of jewelry, which is one of the things I remember most about her. She took a lover late in life (!) who was very generous and I’m very lucky to to be the beneficiary of that affair, though this ring didn’t come from him.
Sometimes I loose it in the depths of my own purses and it’s a total panic that always ends with my boyfriend telling me I really need to relax because everything I lose is always just in the depths of my purse.
I think heirlooms don’t need to have any monetary value. It can be purely be about sentiment, but it’s also such a great way to have a glimpse into a different time, a past life of a relative, and to see how the trends of the past blend into your current time and style. I’d say about 95% of the jewelry I own and wear has belonged to someone in my family before me and it feels very special to be walking through the world with a reminder and piece of them with me.
Caitlin: This is my mother’s mitt! She used it growing up, and her brother gave it to her… The mitt is a big part of why she started playing sports and then continued to play sports her entire life (and still does! hey pickleball fans!). I got to use the mitt when I “played” softball and later, my brother also got a go at the mitt… He actually ended up being a super talented baseball player, so eventually he got his own mitt which was well worn in, and loved.
The mitt empowered my mom in a time where women weren’t being empowered, that it enabled her to find passions she wouldn’t have discovered otherwise, and gave her the strength, confidence, and sportsmanship qualities that have shaped her life as a mother, friend, teacher, sister, and athlete still.
I think we’re both a bit sentimental — the story behind the mitt, and how it’s so much more than a softball mitt is something I think we’d both agree is pretty special.
I think the memories they evoke are special, whatever those memories may mean to you — but every heirloom, person, and story is different.