Guest Opinion: Bestow a piece of history this holiday

Christmas and the holidays are here and the age-old problem presents itself as to what to give everyone on your gift list. With the economic climate influx and money tight, the question becomes one of how to give a unique one of a kind gift that will make a memorable impression and will be cherished throughout generations to come. What truly has value and is worth cherishing is something that has been loved throughout time and has a provenance attached to it.

Who wouldn’t love a great one-of-a-kind gift? Who wouldn’t want something special that no one else will have? Who doesn’t love gifts that are unique, rare and have an amazing history? Do you find it hard enough to find something wonderful for the special people on your gift list without having to break the bank to get it?

You have scoured the malls and specialty shops and have seen a lot of the same things everywhere you go. Yes you can find the greatest and latest electronic game product or technological gadget and other fantastic gift ideas but all of them cost more than you can afford at the moment. Money is tight and your list is longer than your bank account will allow. Also, not everyone on your gift list would derive pleasure from such things and the traditional tie and shirt or some new device for the kitchen just seems a little impersonal and predictable.

The best gifts are those that have been loved before and have a whole lot more loving left in them. Antiques are great and unexpected gifts for just about anyone on your Holiday Gift list. Antiques are unique, one of a kind and have amazing histories that can be enjoyed now and handed down throughout the generations.

How about Aunt Tilly? Wouldn’t she love a beautiful real shell cameo from the late 1800s? Or how about Grandpa? Would he not think the old watch chain and fob from the 1920s or the cufflinks from the 1950s were a great choice for him? Then there is the teenage daughter. I bet she’d love some of the trendy jewelry pieces from the 1960s.

Rhinestones are in and hot for the holidays, but the new rhinestone sparkly pieces are very expensive and are cheaply made.

The gift of an antique, above all else, inspires sharing, togetherness, storytelling and “I remember when” moments. They evoke a time and place when the worries of terror attacks, drugs and murder were unheard of. They are a piece of history and an amazing testament to how our predecessors lived and loved. And the amazing thing about an antique is how it survived after all of these years. Someone loved the item so much that they went to great care to ensure its survival beyond their own.

An antique given as a gift is perceived as being truly thought about with having enormous intrinsic and extrinsic value. Living in Charleston, S.C., the birthplace of the Civil War, I have had the good fortune to own many beautiful and meaningful pieces of history.

At Christmas a number of years ago, I was given a two-sided locket with glass on both the front and back. Inside the glass on each side was hair, a lock of blonde and a lock of red. Inside the locket were two photos of very young men or really boys. Engraved on the frame below one of the photos was the date 8-24-63 and below the other was 1-14-64. These “boys” were brothers and were Confederate soldiers and each had died during the Civil War. Their grieving mother had encased their memory and wore this locket close to her heart until her death in 1877.

Over the years, I have discovered that this is called “mourning jewelry” and such things had become quite popular during the Civil War. Often the family would weave intricate patterns with the hair of their lost loved one and would turn them into earrings, brooches, watch chains, and even framed artwork. To have been given this locket by someone who loves me, it has become a wonderful symbol of love and loss and has truly given a whole new meaning to getting a gift.

Another time I was fortunate to find a pair of very elaborate repousse (embossed) dangly earrings at, of all places, the local Goodwill store. I found them among broken chains, cheap plastic hoop earrings and a couple bangle bracelets and the price written on them was $.50/pr. I took them home and did a little research to find out that a similar pair is shown in Jeanenne Bell’s Collecting Victorian Jewelry book and they were described as being from the late 18th century and were 18k gold with real rubies and pearls and had a value of $1,850!

I gave this pair of early Georgian earrings to my mother. They were for pierced ears and since she felt too old at 92 years to have her ears pierced she often worn one on a chain as a pendant. She loved and cherished them and, upon her death this past September, I now have them back in my possession and am deciding who to pass them onto next.

So as you can see if you know where to look and are a little lucky and a lot informed you can find wonderful Christmas and Holiday gifts for very little money which will be prized and enjoyed as family heirlooms and treasures.

In summary, everything is not always worth what is paid yet some of the treasures you find may be priceless. The keepsakes you find and give will bring joy to their lucky recipients.

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