Best Family Heirloom Gift Ideas

Coins are an excellent heirloom gift idea

While an heirloom is a treasured item that has belonged to a family for multiple generations, a "future heirloom" is typically a special gift shared with the intention that it will be passed down to children and grandchildren. The best heirloom gifts are personal, meaningful, and timeless, so they're not driven by fads or trends. In addition, they're typically made from high-quality materials that can hold up to a controlled indoor environment and reasonable wear. Ideally, they'll also appreciate value over time.

Are you thinking about giving a gift that more than one person can cherish and enjoy? In this article, we'll be sharing some of our favorite family heirloom gift ideas, so you can choose something enduring that will inspire joy for many lifetimes.

Handwritten letters

One of the best things about heirloom gifts is that they don't necessarily have to cost a lot of money. A simple handwritten letter with your heartfelt words is a beautiful heirloom gift that can withstand the test of time, if you preserve the paper properly.

These days, fewer people are writing handwritten letters, since sending an email or text message is an easy and fast way to communicate with loved ones. If you enjoy the art of the written word, and you have attractive handwriting, then you may want to consider writing your feelings on a beautiful piece of unique stationery.

To preserve the letter, you can present it in a beautiful and functional archival box, which will help control exposure to heat and humidity. Just be sure not to laminate your letter, since lamination can cause paper to tear, yellow or become brittle prematurely, according to one article from The New York Times about preserving family memories. In addition, you can convert your handwriting into a digital font by using a service like Calligraphr, which will allow future generations to honor your unique handwriting style for many decades to come.

Fine china or crystal

For many centuries, china and crystal remained the preferred heirloom gifts to give newly-married couples. According to one essay about the evolution of the bridal registry, "The ritual giving of wedding gifts has long been of seminal importance to the china and glass industries. For hundreds of years in Western culture, the presentation of precious objects like fragile, expensive ceramic and glass vessels has been associated with the marriage ceremony." Crystal is still the traditional gift for the 15th wedding anniversary, while china is the traditional gift for the 20th anniversary.

However, in the 21st century, fewer couples are adding china and crystal to their wedding registries. One article from Martha Stewart Magazine asserts, "Brides-to-be are feeling less compelled than ever to follow in the traditional footsteps of their mothers and grandmothers, and they're rethinking whether or not having a formal set of dishes fits in with their lifestyle." Despite the fact that today's brides are departing from tradition, crystal and china can still make excellent heirloom gifts - and you shouldn't feel shy about giving them.

To give fine china, you'll want to think about the long term, considering the fact that a pattern that looks great today may look outdated and unappealing decades from now. Southern Living put together a list of the most classic china patterns of all time, including one with blue lace, another with a gold monogram, and a minimalist white option with a raised texture. To gift crystal, you'll want to consider the objects that would be practical for your family member to use on a semi-regular basis. A platter, bowl, pitcher, or vase will always come in handy and be appreciated around the house.


Not only is a coin a special gift that can last a lifetime and beyond, but it can also inspire a satisfying hobby in coin collecting. Coins can be a smart financial investment, and they're beautiful to behold. If you're not sure about the best types of coins to give, you'll want to consider proof sets, American silver eagle coins, American gold eagle coins, and foreign coins.

To commemorate a special date, you should opt for a proof set, which includes "high-quality examples of each coin design struck during a given year", according to one article about coin gift ideas. First made in 1986, American silver eagle coins feature the beautiful Walking Liberty design, which appeared on the half dollar starting in 1916. They are made with one ounce of .999 fine silver. Beautiful to behold, American gold eagles feature a replica of Augustus Saint-Gaudens double eagle design from 1907 and are available in various sizes and denominations. Foreign coins make great gifts when you'd like to celebrate your cultural heritage or commemorate a meaningful travel memory.

Secret family recipes

Many people believe that home cooking is the purest expression of love. Do you have a secret or treasured recipe that has remained in your family for many years? Consider documenting the recipe for future generations to replicate and enjoy. Writing the recipe in your own words on an index card or piece of stationary is as beautiful as sending a handwritten letter; not only does it capture your handwriting, but it also highlights your unique way of communicating the recipe to others. To preserve the handwritten recipe, you should keep it in an archival box, the same way you would a letter. Consider adding some printed photos in the box to show your family members exactly how you prefer to plate and present your dish.

If you have multiple recipes, then you may even want to print a special cookbook. To create this cookbook, you have two options: you can create a digital file to submit to a print-on-demand publishing service, or you can make a DIY cookbook in a scrapbook format. Before you decide which of the two options is right for you, you'll want to gather all your recipes and test them for accuracy. Next, you'll want to consider taking photos of all the finished dishes. Finally, you may want to write a few sentences about each recipe, sharing any secret tips, explaining the inspiration behind the recipe, or describing the tradition that accompanies it. If you're a crafty person, then you can arrange all the elements in a binder or scrapbook. If you'd rather someone else handle the formatting or production for you, then you can outsource the printing.


A watch is a wonderful heirloom gift because of what it represents: the bittersweet passage of time. Hamilton Powell, collector and CEO of the watch broker Crown and Caliber, says, “We live in an age where it is very difficult to predict what will and won’t be in style when my kid is in his or her 30’s, but I can pretty much guarantee a watch will.” We can easily check the time on our smartphones, but a well-made watch is a status symbol and a staple accessory that will endure the passing of trends.

To gift an heirloom watch, you'll want to consider quality above all. Some of the world's best-known watch brands - like Rolex, Omega, Patek Philippe, and Breguet - are collected by watch lovers worldwide for a reason: they're precise and built to last. These watches may be pricey, but they're meticulously crafted with the finest materials. If you can afford a watch from one of these prestigious makers, then it will make a lasting and impressive gift.

Medals or awards

Do you have a special medal or award that was bestowed upon you for your achievements or your service? This object likely has great meaning for you, but you won't be able to hold on to it forever. Medals and awards can be beautiful objects, especially if they've been crafted of fine and valuable materials, like precious metal. To gift your medal or award, you can purchase a special display frame or box and then include a handwritten story about what the honor means to you. You can explain to your loved one why you're choosing to share your meaningful object and why that person also deserves to be honored in a special way.


Pearls are one of the best heirloom gifts because most pearl jewelry will endure the test of time and never go out of style. A classic pearl necklace is always in fashion and appeals to many tastes. They're also the ideal accessory to wear for some of life's most celebrated moments, like graduations and weddings. Women have been wearing pearls since at least 420 BC, when a fragment of pearl jewelry was found in the sarcophagus of a Persian princess. Your descendants will continue to enjoy pearls for many centuries to come.

The Add-A-Pearl cultured pearl necklace is a unique heirloom gift because it becomes more beautiful and meaningful over time. It grows with your recipient, so it's a great gift to give a toddler or young child. You can start an Add-A-Pearl necklace with just one Japanese Akoya cultured pearl in your desired size on a silver or 14K gold chain. For every milestone and celebration, you can give a new pearl, which is added to the original necklace with free inspections and free stringing. Before you know it, you’ll be building a meaningful jewelry gift that she’ll cherish now - and eventually pass on to a future generation.

Now that you know more about some of the most popular heirloom gifts, which one do you feel the most inspired to share with a loved one? Which one resonates with you on an emotional level, and which one is most appropriate for the celebration or milestone you'd like to commemorate for your loved one? We'd love to hear about some other heirloom gifts that hold a special place in your family and your heart.


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