07 July 2011

How to Wear Grandma's Jewelry: Treasure Chest Thursday

One of my favorite things about families are the heirloom pieces that get passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter.  My grandmothers, and my great grandmother in particular, have been wonderful about opening their jewelry boxes for me.  While wearing vintage jewelry can seem daunting, it shouldn't be!  Wearing heirloom pieces, whether they're ten or sixty years old, is a great way to honor your ancestry and your childhood memories...all while looking fabulous.  Not sure you can do it?  Need some suggestions?  Here are my five favorite ways to wear vintage jewelry.

1.  Mix new and old
Don't be afraid to wear your vintage jewelry with your newer pieces.  A vintage tennis bracelet will look refreshing when paired with three or four others, or wear a tiny brooch in a cluster with two or three on your jacket.  Or just wear anything solo!  Pairing a chunky, vintage gold necklace with a button down and simple diamond stud earrings makes you instantly office chic.
2.  Something Borrowed
My Grandmother Audrey gave me a gorgeous Sara Coventry brooch and earring set that featured pretty silver leaves and a pearl center.  When my best friend Ashlee called me, her matron of honor, in a panic a week before the wedding because she didn't have her "something borrowed," I knew it would be perfect!  She pinned that pretty brooch onto the stem of her wedding bouquet and it looked beautiful.
3. Fix It
Sometimes heirloom pieces don't come to you in the best of shape. Don't let those pieces sit in the back of your closet! Fix them. Any local jewelry designer should be able to help you out. Take that pretty pearl-less bracelet in and have the pearls replaced or links shortened. I had two links taken out of a vintage bracelet so it would fit my petite wrist and the designer was able to make them into earrings for me. Now I have two pieces to enjoy!
4.  Redesign it!
If your jewelry is broken beyond repair have it created into something else. I found a young Chicago designer, Alex Agudo, who was able to resurrect one of my Great Grandmother's Weiss Bracelets. Some pieces were missing links/broken/missing stones, so Alex took the bracelet apart and restrung it using the good crystal pieces and some new black agate stones and then created a matching pendant necklace with the leftover piece.  See the photo above to see the stunning necklace and earrings.
5.  Re-Purpose
Just because a piece was designed to be worn one way doesn't mean you can't do something else with it.  Pin that brooch into your hair for a sparkling hairpin, or onto a hat for extra sparkle.  You can even wrap some floral wire around the pin back and use it to decorate your flower bouquets.  Have larger than life button earrings?  Use them as mini brooches.  Wrap a necklace around your wrist a couple times with some ribbon for a new bracelet.  I have my Great Grandmother's engagement ring sans the diamond (Mom got that one!) that I intend to have a bright, colored gem set in to wear as a cocktail ring.  Just think outside of the box a little and the possibilities are endless.

Do you have a special vintage piece you like to wear?

Written by Kirsten Agnello-Dean

Kirsten is the daughter of Brenda, a Chicago area Singer and part-time Social Media Coordinator who just so happens to love accessorizing.


  1. Kirsten, very nice of you to do a guest-blog for mom. It isn't just grandma's jewelry you can wear, don't forget mom's. Very nice piece. And, I hope to see you around writing about your family history.

  2. Thank you Barbara. And that's very true...I just haven't wrestled too many of my mom's jewels from her yet, although I did take her wooden vintage purse to a wedding this past weekend!

  3. Nice post with some great suggestions. I've got my mother's and grandmother's jewelry and am trying to figure out what to do with all of it. You have given me a few things to think about.

  4. Nice! I too have family jewelry that I don't want to leave in the jewelry box just because it's broken. A rose quartz choker that was much too snug got new life when I took it apart and added crystal beads to make it longer. A marcasite and jade necklace was missing an entire section of chain...identical chain was found at a local bead supply store and voila!...it's ready to wear again...by me!

  5. I agree, jewelry is too pretty to leave in a jewelry box. I love that you found new ways to make it wearable. I hope when you wear them they bring you fond memories.