When we asked you to share the stories of your heirloom jewelry, the emails, phone calls and letters poured in.
All together, more than 75 of you wrote or called with stories of wedding rings, heirloom cameos, strings of pearls and old pieces made into new ones.
One woman, for example, said she wears a broken wedding ring her grandmother cherished.
Whether they're worn each day or saved for special occasions, each piece is beloved. “Jewelry provides something tangible to something that's intangible — the memories, the love, the connection to someone who wore it,” said Adrienne Fay, Borsheim's Fine Jewelry's marketing director. Those things were apparent in each story you sent. We aren't able to run them all, so we chose the following:
On Dec. 7, 1941, Dmitri Jovo Tadich — and his entire fraternity at the University of Washington — enlisted in the Army.
He was stationed in China, where he remained after the war, as China was engaged in a civil war. Among his missions was liberating civilians from internment camps. At one such camp, a Russian trader gave Tadich a piece of jade.
Tadich returned home in 1946 and brought the jade — brilliant green and oval-shaped — with him.
Five years later, the career military man was stationed in occupied Japan, his new family in tow. There, he had the piece of jade set in a simple gold band and gave it to his wife, Dorothy.
Dorthy and Dmitri Tadich pictured as newlyweds in 1949, when Dmitri was stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Photo: RYAN SODERLIN/THE WORLD-HERALD
For more than 50 years, she wore the ring every day.
“All my earliest memories were of my mom wearing this ring,” said Kristeen Tadich, the third of the couple's four daughters.
Dorothy wore the jade ring on her right hand, her wedding ring on her left. She rarely wore other jewelry.
Dmitri Tadich died in 1997. Several years later, Dorothy sold their home in Colorado Springs, and Kristeen came to help her pack.
After an emotional few days, she saw her mother off at the airport. Kristeen would return to Omaha; her mother was going to Washington state to live with her sister.
“The last thing my mom did before I put her on the plane ... she took the ring off and gave it to me.”
Kristeen has worn it ever since. Her mom now is in assisted living. Her sisters are scattered. But the ring helps her feel connected to her family, even when they're far away. When she has to make difficult decisions, she sometimes looks at the ring and thinks about how her parents might handle the situation.
“It represents my father's honor and my mother's love,” she said.
When Karalynn Brown and Alex Bednar of Buffalo, N.Y., married in December, they exchanged rings made from the thick gold band that Kara's grandfather had worn for decades.
Kara loved her grandfather, who sold his ranch near Thedford, Neb., after his wife died in 1993 and moved to Bennet, Neb., to be closer to his two daughters and six grandchildren. He was a regular at their ballgames and speech meets at both Palmyra and Gretna High Schools. He cheered them on and offered advice, sometimes poignant, sometimes funny, often both.
He was a storyteller, a man who didn't mince words.
“He always had an inappropriate joke,” said Jan Brown of Omaha, Dale Robinson's daughter and Kara's mother, adding that he probably loosened up her straight-laced kids.
Karalynn Brown and Alex Bednar's wedding bands are made from a ring her grandfather Dale Robinson wore.
While at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kara received a Fulbright scholarship and spent a year in the Slovak Republic. There, she began dating Alex, a Fulbright scholar spending a year in the Czech Republic. Alex had attended Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Dale quickly came to love Alex, who he nicknamed “GI Joe,” because he was from Grand Island. Grandpa liked the novelty of two Nebraskans meeting in eastern Europe, Jan said.
Alex and Kara became engaged. By this time, Dale had given the thick gold ring to Jan. Kara asked her mother if they could have the ring made into two simple bands.
Jan loved the idea but said they had to ask Dale. They did, and he agreed. But first, as was so often the case, he told a story.
On a spring night in the early 1970s, he had to pull a calf. He got it out, safe and sound, but when he looked down at his left hand, he noticed the ring wasn't there. Not wanting to upset his wife, he stuck his arm back inside the cow and retrieved the ring — and a tale to tell.
Jan already knew the story, and she was glad her daughter got to hear it, too.
“To tell you the truth, I think they were a little bit horrified,” she said.
Dale died in October, at the age of 79. Not quite two months later, Jan watched the couple exchange rings made from the one her dad had worn.
Knowing that two of the people she loves most are wearing the ring means the world to her, Jan said.
“It represents a link to my parents, who cherished their grandchildren so much,” she said. “But it is also a link to the Sandhills and to a story.”
On her left ring finger, beneath her wedding ring, Angela Southworth Warbelton of Bellevue wears a simple band.
It's a slim wisp of yellow gold with a faint filigree pattern and two sets of engraved initials: AMW and ADS.
The first set of initials belong to Warbelton's grandmother, Amanda Marie Wollam, the second to her grandfather, Alden Dayton Southworth. The two lived in the same Indiana town, where Amanda's dad installed telephone poles and Alden helped from time to time. Then Amanda cared for Alden's ailing grandmother. They married in 1938.
Amanda didn't wear the ring for long. When she was pregnant with her first child, her fingers swelled and she had to have the ring cut off. After the baby came — the first of three boys — she got a replacement ring and tucked the original in her cedar chest. Decades later, Angela ran across the ring while looking for dress-up clothes.
Angela, now 41, was just a girl then. She spent a lot of time with her grandmother, and even lived with her for a time. Each summer afterwards, her grandmother would pay for her to fly from Omaha to Indiana, where she would stay in her grandparents' farmhouse. With her grandma, everything had a time and a place. They'd drive into town on Sundays for church and a meal in a restaurant — a treat — afterwards. They'd enjoy Pepsis together in the evenings, after Grandma announced that it was time.
“She taught me to enjoy the special moments,” Warbelton said. “It's the quality, not the quantity.”
Grandma was involved in about every club in her small town. Her husband died in 1997, and she kept up fine by herself at first. But then she started to get confused. She died in 2006, at age 97.
When Angela was going through her grandmother's things, she found the original gold band that was snipped off Grandma's finger all those years before.
Warbelton, whose first grandchild is due in September, started wearing it. She thought about having it repaired but ultimately decided the ring was more meaningful the way it was.
“I keep it the way it is because of the story to it,” she said.
Anna Hernandez-Valencia of Omaha doesn't remember her grandmother, Francisca Ipiña Toledo, but she thinks of her often.
Orphaned during the Mexican Revolution, Francisca moved with her aunt and uncle to Omaha when she was a young teen. Just a few years later, she met Jose, also from Mexico, drawn to Omaha by railroad and packing house work. They married and had a large family — Anna isn't even sure exactly how large, as several children died when they were little.
Her grandmother had a rough life, Anna said. But she was strong and honest and loved her family.
Francisca returned to Mexico a few times, bringing family members along to show them where she was from. On one trip, she bought a gold religious medal, with her maiden name engraved on the back.
She never had much money, Anna said. And the gold medal must have been expensive.
“It would have been very special to her,” Anna said.
Francisca died just a few months after Anna was born. She lived long enough to see Anna baptized and was her madrina de bautizo — godmother of baptism.
“Even though I did not know her, I feel a really strong connection to her,” Anna said.
Anna's daughter's middle name is Francisca, and the little girl someday will receive the medal, which reminds Anna of the loving woman who endured so much, who inspires her to be strong, too.
“It symbolizes to me her fortitude and her strength.”
Contact the writer: 402-444-1052, firstname.lastname@example.org
MORE STORIES OF HEIRLOOMS
My beautiful diamond ring that I wear so proudly came from my mother, who originally got it from my grandmother. The ring was given to my grandmother on a vacation in Atlantic City many many years ago ... I believe my mom was a kid and she is 73 now. My mom had always said when she passed away I would inherit the ring from her. I had always loved and admired the ring.
When I graduated with my master's degree a few years ago, with 4.0 GPA, while holding two jobs and having pretty nasty fibromyalgia, I said to my mom I wished anything that my grandparents would be there when I walked across the stage because I knew how proud they would be of me. Education was very important to both my grandpa and grandma and I missed them so much. Imagine my surprise the night before graduation when my mom gave me a gift and it was the ring! My mom and grandma have pretty small fingers, but the ring fit perfectly. My mom said she wanted a part of my grandparents with me when I walked across the stage. I cried so hard knowing my mom parted with something so special to her early so that she could make me feel so special.
— Megan Moslander, Omaha
I wear my grandmother's wedding band every day. It's almost 80 years old. It's a channel-set white-and-yellow gold band with 10 diamonds. I started wearing it on my right hand this year shortly after I celebrated 15 years with my husband. I had to have Borsheims take it down two sizes and clean it, as it had been in storage for almost 30 years. They did an amazing job.
My grandmother is 96, lives in Louisiana, and I rarely see her. It's hard to connect with her on the phone because she has trouble remembering. Wearing her ring has started to make me feel closer to her. I would like to pass it down to my own daughter eventually, too.
— Nicole Jefferies, Omaha
I am the proud fifth-generation owner of a pin made from a gold nugget. The gold nugget was given to my great-great-grandmother by a young man (who did not end up being my great-great-grandfather) when she was 16 years old, in 1867.
At some point the pin was made from the nugget. It was passed from great-great-grandma, Alice Convis Andrews, to one of her twin daughters, Mate Andrews Kimber (my great-grandma), who then passed it to my grandma, Margaret Kimber Suchanek, who passed it to my mother, Betty Suchanek Tarr. who passed it to me. I have a photo of Grandma Alice wearing the pin on her dress, and I wore it on my wedding dress in 1978. I have two sons, so the tradition of passing it down to a daughter will change a bit. At this time, I have three granddaughters, one of whom will get the pin, so I hope the “new” tradition will go on.
The only time I have worn it was at my wedding and I stitched it onto my dress that day so it couldn't fall off and be lost. Of the many family heirlooms I have, this one is extra special. If there is a tornado warning, the pin and the photo of Grandma Alice wearing it are the first things I grab when heading to the basement.
— Cheri Schrader, Columbus
My grandparents, Ervin and Marie (Ruopp) Amman, were married in Bloomington, Neb. on Nov. 25, 1925. For a wedding gift, Marie's brother, Chris Ruopp, and his wife sent them five sterling silver teaspoons in the “1921 William and Mary” pattern. Those were the only silver pieces to the set that they ever got. My grandmother had told me this story, and after she passed away in 1996, my mother gave me the five silver spoons. I wanted to display them some way, but never knew how. Then last fall, I ran across a lady who made bracelets out of sterling silverware. It takes two pieces to make one bracelet, so I gave her four of the silver spoons. The next week I received two beautiful bracelets with three Swarovski charms. I then had the bracelets and the fifth extra spoon engraved with my grandparent's names and wedding date. This Christmas I gave the extra spoon to my sister and one of the two bracelets to my mom and kept the other for myself. This was also special for us, as my grandma's birthday was on Christmas. I wear my bracelet often now and when I look at it, I always think of my Grandma Marie and smile.
— Patti Simpson, Holdrege, Neb.
In 1967 when we were married, we didn't have the funds for a diamond ring, nor did I desire one. We picked out matching bands and were happy with that. Five years after a lunch date, we went into Wallace Hedland Jewelry in Bel Air Plaza where I fell in love with a gold diamond ring called the Birdcage design. The cost was $825. That was a lot for us. We left without buying it. Unknown to me, my husband purchased the ring but told the owner he knew I would call the next day and to tell me the ring had been sold. My disappointment was so big that upon coming home from work he went to the back of the garage where he had it hidden and said, “I know Valentine's Day is Saturday, but I couldn't stand to see you so sad.” He cleaned an office for a year to pay for that ring. He also gave his first Christmas bonus check for a diamond necklace that I have had for forty years.
— Pat Pennington
My father flew P-38s in World War II. He was a reconnaissance pilot with the Seventh Photo Group stationed in England. He flew many missions over Europe in that unarmed plane, some involving mapping the Normandy region prior to D-Day. I grew up knowing the distinctive shape of the plane, nicknamed the “fork-tailed devil.” It had twin boons and the cockpit in the middle.
When I met my husband's mother in 1998, she was wearing a necklace with a blue plastic heart encapsulating a gold P-38. I was incredulous. She explained that her husband had sent it to her while she was in Nebraska teaching school and he was in California working for Lockheed, specifically on the P-38. I had known that he had been stationed in Okinawa, but not about this phase of his service. My delight and surprise caused her to give me the precious necklace for Christmas the next year. I wear it on special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, veterans' events, Valentines Day, and I think of my father and father-in-law and their unlikely bond.
— Karen Wingett, Norfolk
We have a “daughter ring” that has been in our family for between 160 and 175 years. My great-great grandma Nancy was the first owner. She passed in onto Lena (great grandma). Lena passed it onto Margaret (grandma). Margaret passed it onto Mary (mom). Mary gave it to me on my 16th birthday. I wear it every day. It is beautiful — a thin gold band with a gold diamond shape in the middle where three small diamonds are set.
I have twin girls who are five, Maggie and Mackenzie. One of the first things discussed among the women of my family when we found out we were having two girls was, “Who will get the ring?” Mackenzie staked her claim when she was three. She tells me all the time, “Mom, I want that ring when I grow up.” She loves to try it on.
— Jill Frederick, La Vista
My sister, Sue Shipley, and I have unusual heirloom necklaces, which we wear often. Years ago, our mother took her mother's and grandmother's gold thimbles to a jewelry store in downtown Omaha, where small gold loops were attached to the tops. Then she added gold chains through the loops to make necklaces. Sue wore hers to her first granddaughter's show-and-tell at the elementary school class, and the children were fascinated with Sue's story. My ophthalmologist was so interested in mine that he noted it on his prescription pad; he intended to make a similar one for his wife with a family thimble. Sue and I have both designated a granddaughter who will receive our very special necklaces, which are a constant reminder of our loving mama.
— Anne McCoy, Independence, Mo.
Last fall, my mother, who is 88 years old, told me she had something special to give me. I was elated when she opened the small box revealing a locket with tiny stone in it. On the back of the locket is the name Juanita. Juanita was her mother who died when my mother was 3 years old. Tears flowed. I was filled with wonder and sadness. I have always felt a connection to my grandmother I never met. Although she died of tuberculosis in 1927 at the age of 28, the family has dozens of photos of her. Many comment on how much I look like her. She must have been a very fun-loving person as many of the photos are in humorous poses. My grandfather loved her very much. It is obvious when viewing the photos of them together.
My mother isn't sure if the locket was a high school graduation gift, engagement gift or wedding gift. Unfortunately, there is no one alive who can give us that information. I feel very lucky to have this piece of jewelry. It feels like just one more connection to this woman I never got to know. I'm planning to take it to a jeweler for appraisal. I'm not sure of the metal or if the stones are diamonds. It just is very precious to me, regardless of its value.
— Linda S. Sladky, Omaha
I have many pieces which can probably be classified as “heirloom,” because they were purchased on our honeymoon in 1948 —a Krementz bracelet, a cameo, single string of pearls — these pieces came from a famous jeweler in St. Louis, called “Jaccard's.”
But I want to tell you about my very favorite piece. It is the letter “M” made for me by my son, Jim Mahoney, when he was in fourth grade. With a small gold frame, a toothpick and some sort of glue, he made a pin for his mom. And I am still wearing that “M”. Whenever anyone comments on the pin, I either have to smile to myself, or simply give them the wonderful story about how I came to have it.
— Mary Mahoney