How Letting Go of Heirloom Jewelry Can Still Pay Tribute to a Loved One’s Memory

heirloom jewelry
Debbie Reslock

By Debbie Reslock | Aug 19th, 2021

When jewelry is inherited from a lost loved one, we often face a dilemma: while the memories behind the piece are wonderful, the piece itself is not our taste. The design of rings, necklaces, and bracelets can change significantly through the years. When this happens, these items tend to fall into obscurity, stowed in a box or drawer and rarely seen again. We hold onto these items because we don’t want to lose the memory of the loved one attached to it. We feel guilty if we let go. But the mistake is believing that the sentiment is attached to the actual object instead of residing within us.

The relationship and memories you had still remain, although many may feel they’re not honoring the person if they don’t keep the inherited pieces. Yet for others, hanging on to jewelry that is never worn and rarely seen is not the way they wish to pay tribute to their loved one either.

What to do with your inherited jewelry is a personal choice. There may be pieces that you’ll wear, even if only on special occasions, or that you cherish and want to pass down. But for the ones that will only be stored in a box, there are other ways to honor your loved one’s memory. Here are a few options you might want to consider.

Alternative Ways to Pay Tribute

  1. Is there someone in your family who would wear the jewelry? If so, you could pass it along to them, if this would make you happy knowing that it’s being worn.
  2. You could also choose to keep one piece and distribute or sell the remaining jewelry. This option can actually give you more freedom in finding a way to commemorate the life of your loved one.
  3. There often isn’t an equitable approach to distribute jewelry if you’d like to pass it down to your heirs. If you choose to sell, the proceeds could be used in a way that makes the original inheritance a living gift.
  4. Instead of material possessions, some say they’d rather have an experience that they could share. The money could be used to travel to a place that is meaningful or holds family significance or history.
  5. Donating the money to a cause that’s important to you and your loved one is another way to pay tribute.
  6. Using the funds to purchase a memorial plaque, bench or other acknowledgment located at their favorite place can create a beautiful lasting remembrance.
  7. If your loved one was a big fan of plants and nature, planting a memorial garden is a simple yet touching way to remember a relative who has passed. Planting a tree is another lasting tribute.
  8. A way to honor your loved one’s memory day by day is to fulfill your dreams of traveling, going back to school or finance a personal project or aspiration. There’s nothing that would make your lost loved ones happier than you being happy.

Steps You Can Take to Keep the Memories

If the decision is to let go of some of your jewelry but you’d like to make sure a reminder of the person is preserved, here are a few suggestions.

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty

When deciding what to do with inherited jewelry, it can help to think of how your loved one would want to be remembered. Would they be pleased that through their gift, they were able to bring you or others joy?

Most likely they’d want you to be happy and enjoy thinking of them instead of feeling guilty for your choices. Unless specific instructions that you were not to sell or change came with the inherited item, hanging on to something that you never wear but feel guilty for letting go isn’t fair or a tribute to their legacy.

We need to realize that what we don’t want to let go of are our loved ones and the memories they left behind. But if we can repurpose or sell the jewelry and use the money to find another way to remember or bring enjoyment, surely that is an acceptable gift that we can give back to them.

Letting Go of Inherited Jewelry Doesn’t Lose the Memory

The sentiment isn’t lost because you let go of a physical object and for many, keeping jewelry that will never be worn is not how they want to remember their loved one. Any choice that brings joy is a tribute. And regardless of what you decide to do about the jewelry, don’t forget that you can always honor them by reminiscing about times you shared or doing things they loved.

Whether to hold on or to let go is a decision that deserves careful thought but your answer shouldn’t be motivated by guilt. There is nothing wrong with letting go because it’s only the jewelry, not the relationship that you had or the memories. Those will always be yours to keep.

Debbie Reslock

Debbie Reslock

Debbie Reslock writes about and for the baby boomer and 55+ market, including the amazing journey of aging itself. Her blog, The Third Act, can be found at


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