Gift Guides

12 Sentimental Gifts That Can Turn Into Family Heirlooms

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Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness, but also enjoys covering the fashion industry and the world of fitness.

Some gifts stay in the family for generations. The perfect present can become sealed as part of your family’s legacy, carrying deep meaning, fond stories, and heartfelt memories that only grow more and more sentimental over the years. Of course, choosing a gift with that kind of staying power is no easy task! Here are twelve gifts that are worthy of being cherished for all time.

1. Handmade Quilt

A handmade quilt offers so much warmth — in more ways than one! The act of crafting the quilt takes a significant amount of time and effort, and the recipient will know that they were on your mind with every stitch. You can infuse your quilt with personal fabrics, such as childhood clothes and blankets. As part of the present, you could teach them the art of quilting (and include some other gifts for quilters), so they can continue adding their own squares to the quilt as a family tradition or even start their own someday. 

2. Recipe Book or Box

antique recipe card holder

A book or box filled with your favorite handwritten recipes is one of the most meaningful gifts for chefs, but it’s not just about the food! Recipes provide a window into the past, allowing future family members to experience a taste of life way back when. Besides the culinary aspect, there’s something about handwritten recipes that feels so nostalgic, transporting the viewer back to that special moment in time when your favorite flavors were lovingly immortalized and preserved as a beautiful keepsake.

Related: 6 Easy Ways to Document A Life Story

3. Photo Album

A photo album is a gift that keeps on giving, growing the memories with every new photo added. While digital photography has become the norm, that’s all the more reason to embrace the classic photo album. That doesn’t mean you need to learn the ins and outs of traditional photography. You can simply get your favorite digital photos printed physically. Watch the recipient’s eyes light up when they see their best selfies and favorite memories brought to life!

4. Music Box

A music box playing their favorite song is a lovely gift that will always bring back the sweetest memories. Music box gifts have been quite popular since the late 1700s, and they continue to delight people of all ages to this day. You can really hone in on the recipient’s personal taste, too. Besides choosing the perfect song, you can find a design showing that this music box was chosen just for them.

5. Jewelry

Sentimental Gifts

Jewelry is a classic heirloom because of its beauty, value, and story. Over time, jewelry gains an almost supernatural quality as the owner imagines all of the special moments and occasions it has seen over the years. A locket with a photo inside is an especially lovely option, or you could give jewelry with a meaningful inscription — don’t forget the date!

6. Piece of Art

Even if you don’t fancy yourself an artist, you might be surprised by what you can accomplish if you give it a shot! A handmade work of art is a wonderful gift that can be displayed in one’s home, serving as an ongoing reminder of the artist behind it. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with commissioning a piece of art — a family portrait painting is a fantastic option. A vintage work of art is also a great choice, as its antiquity adds an extra air of magic and nostalgia.

7. A Collection

From bottles of wine to figurines to coins, a collection makes a meaningful keepsake because it represents your unique tastes. The collection’s new owner can keep adding to the collection, continuing your legacy. If you’re not already a collector, consider giving a starter collection of something you know the recipient loves. You might just inspire them to become a lifelong collector, and those first pieces will always be their favorites.

8. Luggage

Vintage case

Luggage is a practical gift that becomes more and more meaningful with every use. They’ll bring a piece of you with them each time they travel. Leather luggage is ideal because the leather develops its own personality over time. Each mark is part of its story, and the patina will keep evolving. If they’re not into traveling, a purse or satchel is a handy everyday accessory that offers the same benefits.

9. Watches

Functional and fashionable, a timepiece is a gift that serves as a beautiful reminder of those who have worn it in the past. Every time they check the time, they’ll be reminded of the person who gifted it to them. If you don’t have a watch to hand down, there’s nothing wrong with giving a brand new watch to start the tradition. Include a special inscription and a handwritten card to make the watch much more than an accessory.

10. Signed Memorabilia

Sometimes, a signature can make an ordinary gift extraordinary. For example, instead of just giving a book by their favorite author, you could give them a signed, leatherbound copy. 

11. Musical Instruments

A high-quality instrument is one of the most meaningful gifts for any musician or musician-to-be. Vintage instruments often grow in value significantly over time, and they develop their own unique character over the years. Vintage instruments have that nostalgic quality that makes for a great heirloom, but something new allows the owner to create their own legacy right from the start. You can’t go wrong either way!

12. Chess Sets

A high-quality chess set is an attractive decoration and a fun way to encourage people to spend quality time together. Chess is such a historical game that never goes out of style. A nice set is truly an heirloom-worthy gift — each game breathes new meaning into its legacy and yours.

Give From Your Heart

These suggestions are just that — suggestions! The most sentimental gifts are those that mean the most to you and come from a place of love. Anything can be an heirloom if you give with intention and let the recipient know how much they mean to you. 

You might also be interested in: The Grandmillenial’s Guide to Five Vintage Collectibles

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