Making Heirloom Jewelry

Jewelry and Coffee with Rena
Video Episode 6

by Rena Klingenberg.

What makes jewelry heirloom-quality, and a look at three heirloom jewelry items from my great-grandmother.

The Jewelry Rena’s Wearing
in This Video:

Oxidized gaspeite pendant, vintage lucite earrings

Pendant: Gaspeite in oxidized sterling silver wire, by Rena Klingenberg.

Earrings: Vintage faceted lucite drops with 14k gf wire, by Jen of Jenuinejewels.

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  • Dennise says:

    I can’t count the times I’ve reworked Grandma’s necklaces so each daughter has a revamped keepsake. I divide the pearls for each necklace and then add the daughter’s birthstone (or faux birthstone,) knotting it up for a new keepsake to be passed down again.

  • Kim Klass says:

    I am an engraver and work mostly with sterling silver. I know that when I am long gone and dead my jewelry pieces might still be around. Someone might wonder about its history. Something I think about when I work late into the night on a custom money clip or pendant….especially items with initials. Jewelry designers of today are making heirlooms of the future…thought provoking.

  • Kari says:

    Thanks for sharing the great tips, Rena and for showing your inherited heirloom jewelry. I inherited a grandmother’s wedding band and wear it always. I feel so special that out of 8 granddaughters, my grandfather chose to give it to me! It always makes me feel special. God bless.

  • Ann Nolen says:

    What a thoughtful article. As much as I enjoy making my coin jewelry, which already has some history with the coin I start with, I never thought much about the years and the generations to come… Somehow that thought makes me proud of what I am creating. I think I will add this thought to my Insiration Bulletin Board in my studio!
    Thanks Rena

  • Tamara says:

    I like to sift through jewellery at second-hand stores, and in doing so often find beautiful vintage or pre-owned pieces or elements. There’s always a reason why it was donated – maybe a missing stone, a broken clasp, it has tarnished, the style wasn’t appreciated by the owner, the elements didn’t work well together, they didn’t realize the value, and the list goes on. But I, as a jewellery artist can see the beauty and the value of either the whole piece, if it is restored, or of certain elements in the piece. So I like to take some of them home and work with them so that they are restored or reworked into beautiful pieces of jewellery that can again be put out into the market, loved by someone again, and hopefully passed down to someone who also loves them.

    Sometimes I can’t part with the special items I find. A couple years ago I found a petite watch, similar to the type of watch you showed us, Rena. I had always wanted one of those little gold stretch-band watches with the petite face. My mother had worn one. I loved the look of them, the elegance, and the size (they work well with the size of my wrist). So when I found one, I had to have it. I needed to have the little dial to wind it replaced, and the jeweller took the glass off and cleaned it for me. I don’t know the original owner (there are initials on it), but it’s mine now and maybe will be passed on to someone someday. And the style reminds me of my mother, whose wedding band I have and always wear.

    I also have just the face of a watch my father had. He had given it to me while still living, and over the years, at times when I didn’t have a working watch, I would carry that in my purse because it always worked.

  • Hi Rena,

    I stumbled upon your site, and I love it…and the info you’re passing on. Thanks so much! Really enjoyed it!…Joanne Norton…Zenimagery

  • Carol says:

    I love vintage costume jewelry and, like many of you, I use old pieces in new designs.

  • Jeanifay says:

    Three days ago I gave my youngest daughter a Wire Wrapped Cameo that took almost a month to design, because I wanted it to be special to her and my new grandaughter. The Cameo it self is blue algate with mother holding an infant. The stone itself was so beautiful it needed something simple yet elegant. Keeping in mind my daughters style, I worked and worked on my design and could not come up with what was right. Finally I took the cameo and designed what I thought it needed. Wow! It turned out so lovely and delicate in appearance. Fearful of her not liking it I took 2 matching cameos and wrapped them to her taste in jewelry. I layed all 3 in front of her and told her to pick one. How supprized I was when she picked the pendant I designed for the cameo. Lesson learned: design from your heart, keeping true to your personal creativity and be inspired by the beauty of the elements you are working with. I was so excited by the gift my daughter gave me, Little Miss Emma, that I failed to take picture of the the gift I gave her. Both turned out to be beautiful!

  • Your video tells everything!

  • Kim says:

    What a beautiful thought. I have thought about this when giving my step-daughter jewelry that I have made in the past. Will she pass it on to her daughter or grand-daughter, etc. I had never really thought about it with the jewelry I sell, but now I am. I often use old jewelry and old found objects in my new designs.

  • Margo says:

    That’s one of the reason among others I am creating a tiny tag made of sterling silver with my name engrave. It will be attached to each piece.

  • Craz says:

    Super post! I love old jewelry, especially with attached stories and memories. Some of the special heirloom pieces currently in my charge include a silver and onyx ring, a watch very similar to the one shared in the tour, a wedding band and a pair of pearl earrings all given to me by my grandmother who received them from her mother. On my spouses side I have an engraved feminine version of the pocket-watch (brooch style) and a gold bangle bracelet that still has sweet little dents from baby hobbies gums when he was teething.
    In addition I have several pieces of my other grandmother’s costume jewelry forever linked to jaw dropping tales of three years at her Dime-a-Dance job during WWII. My daughters will be getting new pieces with these beautiful elements incorporated, of course to become future heirlooms with new stories.
    I have one item I’d like to preserve in a jewelry design but could use some ideas. Maybe this group can help?! It’s a star lapel pin from WWI that once belonged to my spouse’s great-grandfather. The star is bronze or brass and approximately 8mm. I’m considering resin but have never used it before and I don’t want to damage the piece. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again for the great post.

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