Today, gentlemen, we're going to be talking about heirlooms.
I'm going to give you:
- an introduction to heirlooms
- a story of my favorite heirloom that is property of the United States
- 3 tips on how you can start to create heirlooms in your family.
Introduction to Heirlooms
The definition of an heirloom, which I believe is a term of British origin, is as follows:
*”A movable property that can be inherited through an estate.”*
But I don't think that really does justice to an heirloom.
An heirloom to me is about connection. Something that is valuable beyond the actual function of the item.
The Resolute Desk
In 1852 the HMS Resolute left England. It was on a search mission up near the North Pole and ends up getting stuck in ice and has to be abandoned. Three years later the ship is found off the coast of New England and is sold to the US Congress.
At this point the third war between England and the United States is about to break out. The US Congress sees this as an opportunity, so they take the ship and spend about $30,000.00 to $40,000.00 and they rebuild the ship.
They sail it over to England and present it as a gift to Queen Victoria. The English are so ecstatic about this great gesture of goodwill that we avert war and after that England and the USA become great friends and have been working together pretty well ever since.
IN 1880 the ship was decommissioned. Queen Victoria had the timbers taken out and she created 4 desks.
One of them was the Resolute Desk, which was given to President Hayes in 1880 and has remained the desk of the president on and off since then. There were some stories of it going in and out of storage and travelling with J. F. Kennedy and his museum. Currently it sits in the Oval office and is the President's desk.
There's even a picture of Jimmy Carter and Margaret Thatcher looking at the desk together that's very popular. But I think it's a pretty, darned cool story: That you have something that is the desk of the President and it has a story that goes back to 1852. And that has become an heirloom of my country.
The purpose of heirlooms
Now I say my country, because I don't have any personal family heirlooms.
There's nothing that has been passed to me. My grandmother on my mom's side was an orphan. My father came over from Guanajuato, Mexico without much, basically what he could carry.
So there hasn't been a whole lot of history in my family.
Why I get excited about heirlooms is the idea that you can pass on history through an object.
Instead of just written word or stories, history and function meet. Don't you find that interesting? I'd love to hear from you guys about any interesting stories you may have.
The qualities of an heirloom
The qualities of an heirloom are:
* It has connection
* It has purpose
* It has use, so it can replace a generic item
That's why you see furniture, art and jewelry as being heirlooms. These are things that can pass through time. In a sense they can grow in value, but still have a functional purpose for many years.
As promised, here are my 3 tips to create your own heirlooms within your family, because I'm doing this myself.
3 Tips to create heirlooms
1. Think about the future need
Is this something that has been proven?
Is it going to be able to be passed on from generation to generation?
This is important: consider your iPhone and getting that gold iPhone. That's probably not going to be an heirloom, because technology is not something that has held up well over time. However, furniture, art and jewelry (like some really nice cufflinks) have been proven.
Getting something your son, your grandson or your great-grandson would be able to wear with their shirt I think is a pretty safe bet.
Watches have been used time and time again. They may have changed a little bit, but if you got a handheld watch or a certain type of timepiece or a clock, that is now a piece of furniture, you could find a place for that in your house.
So, it needs to be something that is going to have a future need.
2. It need to be of high quality
Quality build, like furniture, jewelry and artwork is crucial. A lot of this stuff use very high quality material that can stand the test of time. So let's look at jewelry: Silver, gold, stones and precious metals all can stand the test of time and it doesn't really matter how much time passes. You can go back thousands of years and men and women were using jewelry. It's going to be something we use again in the future.
3. It should have a story
If I'm to pass something on, I'd like for it to have a story or even to have a hand in building it. Personally, I'm getting into furniture. I think woodworking is a very noble craft, something that's fallen to the wayside here in the USA.
My friend Pete Sveen, over at DIY Pete, is actually building the type of furniture we're talking about. I'm going to stop over and see him over in Montana again.
For me to be able to build furniture and to be able to pass it on, especially in a world in which… I mean Ikea is cool, but the problem with that furniture is its not going to stand the test of time and its not going to be something you can pass on.
It's worth it if you actually took the time to learn to build something, or to have your hand in it.
Or maybe spend a bit more and buy high-level quality. I think that that's worth it, if you want to introduce heirlooms into your family.