Some time ago, I found this string of antique amber beads among some things I had stored away in a box. I knew they must be old and of some value, but I couldn’t remember where I had acquired them.
I came upon it right after I had a few inquiries for old egg yolk or butterscotch amber, and this shape in particular, which is used to make worry beads.
Now, if this sort of thing isn’t on your radar, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s nothing more special than any imported Baltic honey amber or (and it’s hard for many people, including me, to tell the difference from) the common reconstituted amber that’s on the market en masse.
However, if you take a look at some online marketplaces for antique amber, the prices can be astounding.
One of my customers inquired after any pieces for a collector, and I told her I had this string but I needed to find out more about its origin.
I had just seen a strand of similar, but much larger, graduated antique beads that my father got out to show my client.
He said the beads weren’t for sale; They had belonged to my grandmother but he thought she would get a kick out of seeing them.
I held on to my strand, wondering if they were perhaps from my father’s former shop in Israel or at least if he knew their provenance.
For various reasons, it took me a couple of months to show them to him.
During that time, I came so close to asking the customer for an offer as she continued to inquire.
I am so glad something told me to wait.
Eventually I emailed a snapshot to my father. He took one look and said they also had belonged to his parents and certainly not to sell them.
I suspect they were my grandfather’s rather than grandmother’s as they have the proportions and length of worry beads which are popular with men of the Middle East. Also, they are strung on a very old, simple piece of string, not knotted as a necklace. Incidentally, my grandfather had been a jeweler for the Governor of Esfahan at one point.
For a family who has lived in four countries and on three continents, it’s hard to hold on to stuff, especially something a century old, so it feels good to have a keepsake that belonged to a prior generation.
I can relate to the importance people attach to family heirlooms, a sentiment that’s not surprisingly, mirrored and romanticized in film and literature.
While an object may have intrinsic value, there is also a more abstract value of ownership and preservation to a tangible relic of your ancestry.
An heirloom is a treasure you can pass down the generations that they can touch, to go along with the stories, memories and traditions.
I’m glad I have this rare reminder of my grandparents and prefer to wear and enjoy it, feeling the energy of them with me, than have it sit in a drawer.
And since I know they will go to a niece or nephew, I’d like to record for them the beads’ origin so it’s not forgotten.
I am planning to have them properly strung so they can be worn as a necklace and enjoyed by future generations. I have some small gold beads to add, Perhaps I’ll post a photo when it’s done.
I’d love to hear about any cherished objects from your family that you hope to pass down, or even something you are creating history with right now for your own future generations.