Keepsake Necklace - Grandma and Granchild

What the Antiques Roadshow Can Teach Us About Our Own Keepsakes

Uncovering Treasures on the Antiques Roadshow

I happened to recently catch an episode of the Antiques Roadshow a few nights ago. Although I didn’t find it to be exactly riveting entertainment, I had to pause and watch just a little bit. After all, everyone has heard about the Antiques Roadshow. I watched in awe, as person after person took their place at the table to discuss some object they either inherited, or came upon at a rummage or estate sale. They each had a hopeful gleam in their eye when the dealer or authoritative spokesperson came to tell them about the history and value of their item.  Most I’m sure were not worth all that much, but a few, (the ones that made it into the show) were worth thousands.

To watch people’s reaction to the news was interesting to say the least. Some paid high prices at antique dealers’, only to find that it wasn’t worth that much after all; while others found that their great-grandma’s item, which they hadn’t really wanted to inherit in the first place, was worth its weight in gold, literally.  Of course some left elated, while others left deflated.  I found the whole process to be rather intriguing.  I quietly scoffed at those that had no idea that the items they’d inherited were worth anything, let alone know any history about them.  In fact, they often seemed more surprised by the history of the item than its value, and many said they would be keeping the item to pass down.  This surprised me.  I guess I figured most would take the money and run.  But I was pleasantly surprised by the sentiment some had when it came to their family heirloom.

Do You Know the Stories of Your Keepsakes?

As the show came to a close, I suddenly realized, that although I had snickered at those that knew nothing of the history or value of their inherited possessions, I too, had such items in my care. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten, and felt sheepish for judging these people when I myself was in the same position.

I have an old necklace and an old metal purse from my paternal grandmother that I have no idea where they came from, who they belonged to or why, nor any history of these precious things. You see, my grandmother wasn’t one for keeping logs of things, or writing things down. I suppose she figured if she told me once, she told me a thousand times the value and history of these things. After all, she did wish them to go to me at her passing.

I do remember seeing the necklace; a small, crystalline box with what looked like a tiny diamond with a sunburst coming from it. It held a pristine position, locked behind a small glass frame hanging on her living room wall.  She had carefully laid out and secured the necklace to a piece of blue felt, and hung it up for all to see.  She was obviously proud of this necklace, and what it represented.The problem is, I don’t remember what she told me about it.  I know it only as something that she treasured, but nothing more. How sad that something so beautiful and unique be lost on someone that actually cares because my grandmother unintentionally and mistakenly believed the history of the necklace would be preserved in my 10 year old mind. I suppose that someday I will have to take the necklace to someone to find out its worth, but they will never be able to tell me how she came about to have the necklace, or why it held such high esteem as to adorn her living room in a frame. That information was lost when we lost her.

So I have unwittingly joined the club of millions of people out there that have treasured items in their possession, but have no idea why it’s such a treasure. People forget to write these things down, or lose the ability to with age or circumstance. I wonder just how many items such as these go on lost to us forever because their histories are unknown? It is likely a very sad statistic if it’s out there.

How Can You Uncover the True Worth of Your Heirlooms?

So what can be done to prevent all of these treasured heirlooms from being lost or forgotten as time goes by? We need to research and document the heirlooms we have in our homes now, before their history is forgotten. We can contact historians, or antique specialists to find out now, before it’s too late of the possible significance of these things, and document what we find for future generations. Take pictures of the items most prized or valuable to you and find a way to preserve those pictures and connect them to the story (hint: we’re going to make that easy). That way, the stories and histories of items that mean so much  will not get lost in the shuffle.

I know that I personally have a collection of porcelain dog figurines that I treasure above and beyond their actual worth. Although I’d love it if my son were to love these things as I do, I have to be realistic; he’s just not that into dogs like I am.  So, what’s a person to do? I can take pictures of each dog, and attach my story of where it came from, where I want it to go when I’m gone, and why it is valuable to me. Only I know the true value of something, and what it means to me personally. Although my son will likely never want to keep my treasured dog collection, he will certainly remember that it was part of who I am, and what I hold dear. He will know the value and story behind each item I pass down to him, and he can choose to keep it or get rid of it when I’m gone.

My point is that we have so many things in our possession that mean so much to us, but we often forget that others don’t share the same view, or know of something’s value. We need to pass on what we know to the future generations, so they will not be lost like the rest of us with our treasured items of unknown value. We need to tell the stories of our valuables so that they stay valuable and don’t end up on a show where some stranger picked them up from a rummage sale, or worse. If we treasure something so much as to call it a treasure, we need to pass that information on.

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