On Mementos and Family Heirlooms

This weekend, a book and a movie I watched featured an heirloom watch passed down through generations. A thought struck me: there are no mementos or heirlooms in modern life.

The most common types of things people pass down through generations are furniture, art, and jewelry. You can’t pass down an Apple Watch Series 7. Nor will my Ikea furniture hold up for generations to come.

Do I need to be considering the “heirloom-worthy” value of purchases these three categories?

Heirloom Furniture?

When I buy furniture, I consider it will last for roughly 10 years. To me, an investment in high quality furniture seems like a huge waste—my taste my change, I may move, my pets or children may will ruin it.

There are a few pieces of furniture in my home now that I hope my children will love: my great grandmother’s cedar chest and my grandmother’s unique statement coffee table.

In my lifetime, I have not acquired a single piece of furniture to add to this “heirloom” collection.

Heirloom Art?

Considering art, will my children want to inherit a piece that we thoughtfully and painstakingly purchased? An art purchase is either an investment (“I like this art and believe it will appreciate value over my lifetime”), or purchased on a whim (“That’s really interesting/cute/will fit the space on my wall”).

I believe that with art, you need to consistently train your descendants that the piece is important to you and you would like them to keep it in the family after you’re gone.

Who is making the time for that?

Heirloom Jewelry?

So what about jewelry? Are modern families still “passing down mother’s engagement ring?”

The only jewelry of note in my family is from previous generations: my Oma’s Amethyst ring, my grandmother’s anniversary banded ring. Yet in my own life, I cannot think of more than one piece (my wedding rings) that I have been gifted or have purchased that holds serious, lasting intrinsic value.

Monetary value, yes.

Beauty, yes.

But like art, jewelry needs an interesting story to become a true heirloom. Can you build a story in one generation? If not, how many generations does it take?

Summary: (1) I do not make high quality, lasting purchases of physical products. (2) I have to build a strong story for the mementos and heirlooms I don’t want my kids to donate to Goodwill when I’m gone.