Heirlooms: Our Grandmothers’ Jewelry

August 14, 2015

Wearing Family Heirlooms


I’ve always been close with Grandy, my maternal grandma. I’m her name sake, as Adrienne number two, and we’re both Sagittariuses, so we’re stubborn, adventurous, and prefer to do things without help. There’s a mutual respect between Grandy and I; I have always been able to see eye to eye with her and know exactly were she comes when others may not understand. Grandy places a strong importance on family, which is something she passed down to me. She also prefers to live minimally, frequently getting rid of objects, so she gifted me several jewelry heirlooms, knowing how much my family heritage means to me, and that I love to dress up in items that trigger nostalgia.

Each beautiful piece originally belonged to my Great Grandmother. I’m the sixth generation born from Colorado pioneers— I’m proud of these family roots and want to keep the stories alive! It means so much to me to behold, cherish and eventually pass down my heritage to the next generation.

Grandma's Heirlooms

Above I’m wearing my Great Grandmothers stunning crystal AB necklace that easily stands out as a statement piece. I wear this necklace with pride when I’m attending a more glamorous to-do. It’s a perfect accessory for this black 1950s tafetta dress available from my vintage store Ghost Rabbits (’cause I love old things!)

Pictured below are a few more beautiful gems from my Great Grandmother that I hold dear to my heart.  To the left is a hand carved shell cameo brooch.  To the right are my Art Nouveau earrings with amethyst, pearls, and brass filigree.  Not pictured is my gold leaf and tiger eye antique necklace, shown in the previous blog post, Clean and Chic with a Bold Accent.

Grandma's Heirlooms


My maternal grandmother was half filipino, half Tlingit Alaska Native from Hoonah, Alaska. When she was a child she was shipped off to boarding school, away from her mother and their Native traditions.

I used to stand at my grandparents’ wall of family portraits and gawk at my grandmother’s beauty in her younger years. A different person looked down at me, behind her soft pincurls and red lips. After becoming a mother myself I became more interested in my grandmother’s essence and why the light dimmed from her eyes. But she got sick and passed away before I was bold enough, or introspective enough, to know the questions to ask.

By the time I was born my grandma was very quiet. Most of my memories of her involve her hunched in her pillowed chair at the kitchen table, chewing her food slowly between strawed-sips from her glass of cold water. I would watch her from across the table and wonder if she knew I was there. On occasion, she’d point at me and laugh with her dentures consuming her smile, and although I never knew what was so funny, I would feel loved.

Alaskan Walrus Ivory Jewelry

I grew up 3,000 miles away from my grandma, in a town with as many Native Americans as stop lights. It was very important to my grandmother that I witness the traditions of my people, so I visited Alaska as a tourist. As an outsider I was confused; I saw blue jeans underneath the regalia. There was the image of the culture, but I couldn’t feel the spirit. After the public events the family would gather at my grandma’s to eat traditional food of salmon, hooligan, herring eggs, rice, chicken adobo, and jello on paper plates in front of the TV. I felt lonely in a room full of people. When the white men came, took the land, and sent the children off to be “saved”, the spirit got lost. It took years for the People to regain the strength to find it again, but it will never again be pure.

At home in Colorado I would see the stars stretch across the atmosphere and feel myself dissolve into the deepness until I could feel the heartbeat of the planet. I would take off my shoes and climb the red rocks of Utah to sit in the dusty Anasazi ruins that made me feel so empty until the warm air filled my lungs with the gratitude for all the worlds’ ancestors. The cool waters of the San Juan rivers shook the blood from my limbs until ecstatic bliss tingled to the tips of my hair, and I would look to the sky and know that the moment was eternal.

Alaskan Walrus Ivory Jewelry

I think my grandma worried that I wouldn’t find the answers or guidance that she found in her church or from her traditions, too far away from the well of Truth that had served and healed her. When my grandmother died, I wanted to tell her that I lived a life of love, although she was too far away to see it, and I loved deeply, with or without my Native roots. And I that loved her, too. But sometimes it’s just too late.

The jewelry that I’m wearing in these photos, except for my mother’s woven bracelet, was my grandmother’s. When I wear it I am reminded of the sleeping Native spirit, while honoring the change and the evolution of it. The necklaces, bracelet engraved with Eskimo figures, and hand-carved walrus earrings are all made of walrus ivory. I love the raw, primal ivory and how it adds a bit of edge to a classic ensemble.

We want to thank the team at Invaluable for giving us the inspiration to write this post. Without their encouragement, we may not have thought to honor our grandmothers in this way. With collectibles, art, and jewelry auctions, Invaluable is an antique auction site where you can find your own treasures to perhaps become your own family’s heirlooms one day.


  • Reply leslie van belle August 14, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    i love your stories, pictures, perspective and everything you two are sharing with this blog. thanks for sharing

    • Ursala
      Reply Ursala August 15, 2015 at 11:45 am

      Thanks Leslie! We always appreciate the feedback, and it means a lot to me that you took interest in our blog!

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