Inherited Jewellery

Jewellery is one of the most enduring gifts we can give and receive. I’ve been lucky enough to receive several significant pieces as gifts, each with their own history and meaning, massively increasing their importance and value to me. All of these pieces have their own stories, and I probably don’t know the half of it; I like old things because they’ve been worn by people before me – they had value to someone long before they came into my possession. I’ve always been a lover of history and a lover of all things shiny, so studying ancient history at university you can bet one of my favourite things was looking at ancient headdresses, pendants and rings, often entombed along with their last wearer. I’d rather pass jewellery on than be buried with it, but I love the idea of inherited jewellery that has meant something and been worn by more than just me.

My maternal grandmother gifted me these earrings on my most recent birthday; she bought them before my Mum was born, paying for them weekly after she completely fell in love with them in a jeweller’s window and couldn’t afford them on her nurse’s salary. She told me that she doesn’t wear them anymore as she feels she never has on occasion, and she’d rather they make someone she loves happy than sit and gather dust. My Mum wasn’t convinced they would be my style, but I absolutely love them. I’m a bit of a magpie and love anything shiny, so these are right up my street. I think my Mum thought they were a little old fashioned, but I love a classic piece of jewellery that can add a touch of timelessness to an outfit and make me feel fancy. I might not be wearing these daily for fear of losing them, but I’ll definitely be getting them out at the slightest excuse.

My Father passed away over twenty years ago. My Mum gave me her wedding and engagement ring a few years ago as she realised long after getting married that she actually prefers silver or white gold to yellow, whereas I exclusively wear yellow gold. I wear the engagement ring more than any other ring, simply because I like it and wearing it reminds me of my Mum. It should probably remind me of my Father, but I prefer to think of her and draw strength from the incredible woman she is. I don’t often wear the engagement and wedding ring together just because I’m not used to wearing two rings together and it feels a bit strange, but every now and then I like to wear them as a pair. My brother has my Father’s wedding ring somewhere but doesn’t really wear it – I think the last piece of jewellery I saw him wear was a puka shell necklace when he was about seven and he’ll probably kill me for telling you that.

My paternal Grandmother passed away in my last year of university; I missed the funeral as I had my final third year exam and the last thing she would have wanted was for me to miss it. In fact, absolutely terrifying harridan that she was, she would have been absolutely furious with me. I wish I’d had more time with my Gran in particular, as I felt like we began to get along so much better as I got older. She ceased to see her as a belligerent, chain-smoking old woman, and instead I began to see her as the witty and ambitious woman she had always been. She was a bit like Lois in Malcolm in the Middle – to the children she was a complete nightmare, but to the viewer she was a shrewd woman in difficult circumstances (can you imagine having FOUR SONS?!). My Gran was a brilliant woman, and I only really saw it in her last few years of life. When she passed away, her three granddaughters inherited jewellery in the form of three rings; the eldest was given her wedding ring, the middle one her engagement ring, and me, the youngest, her favourite ring, the one she bought herself with her first proper pay cheque. It’s the upper one in the photo below, and it’s a teeny bit too small for me so I don’t wear it as often as some of my others. I might get it made a size bigger so that I can wear it more.

Aunty Nelly was a mysterious figure. I don’t think I was actually related to her in anyway; as far as I understand, she was an old, rich lady my Nan looked after long before even my Mum was born who then left everything to my Nan in her will. Amongst the various antique jewellery was this ring, a simple Victorian gold ring with a ruby in the middle; it’s slightly big on me so I can wear it on my index finger as well, and I really like the square shape of it as it’s quite different to my other rings.

My Nan has the most ridiculous engagement ring I’ve ever seen IRL; it has three humongous diamonds and must have cost my Grandad a fortune on his coal miner salary…except it didn’t. When my Grandad opened his own business, he started making more money and bought her a better one; the original was turned into this necklace that I wear most days.

I think it was my maternal grandparents’ tenth anniversary when my Grandad gave my Nan the ring on my lower hand in the photo below. It features seven tiny stones, a diamond, an emerald, an amythest, a ruby, another emerald, a sapphire and a tourmaline, which spells out “dearest”, which was bit of a trend in Victorian ring design. It’s a cute ring and cute idea, and I wear it a lot.

I feel a little naked without a watch, and this one that belonged to my Grandad is my favourite. It’s more masculine than watches I’ve had in the past, but I really like having a thicker strap and larger face – have you ever seen those old fashioned ladies’ dinner watches that are almost impossible to actually tell the time with? I don’t understand the appeal. This one is lovely, and the fact that it was his formal watch that he’d wear whenever we went out for dinner on holiday brings back so many happy memories of fun times, mostly running around cruise ship promenade decks with him, me in an evening gown and bare feet, him in a tuxedo and equally bare feet, terrorising the old fogies – he never seemed old to me until the end. Plus, I always know the time, providing I’ve remembered to wind it.

Jewellery is one of those things that can totally change an outfit. I find that a statement pair of earrings or rings can really change the vibe of your outfit and make me feel a lot more put-together. I don’t feel fully-dressed without some sort of jewellery, and I feel very lucky that I have inherited jewellery that I love.

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