THE MODERN HEIRLOOM

by Katie Barry September 01, 2021 4 min read

THE MODERN HEIRLOOM

 Heirlooms aren't really about the past – they're about the value that they bring us in the present, particularly when they can be used, or worn. Jewellery that's passed down through generations serves as a constant reminder of the best about family and loved ones. The once-radical advice to use the good plates every day because life is short has now become well-worn, for good reason: the pieces we love should be seen, used, and included in everyday celebrations. In this spirit, Black Betty founder Kristin Weixelbaumer gathered three generations of her family to dress up for no reason other than to celebrate life, each other, and some of the beautiful things they share.

“I’m so passionate about our jewellery and what it means to wear jewellery - create something that you wear on your person daily,” says Kristin. “The energies that these stones, jewels and metals hold: what they do for the person wearing them & what it means to be passed down & shared with future generations.”

CREATING JEWELLERY

 

On the men's fingers are the classic staple piece, the signet ring, in two favourite iterations. The Black Onyx Rectangle Signet Ring has a bold, modern feel, while The Black Diamond Oval Signet Ring in silver has a sleek, understated silhouette. Styled as an elegant, standout alternative to a pocket square, two necklaces dangle from a suit jacket: The Tri Tanzanite Marquise Necklace in silver and The Tri Green Tourmaline Marquise Necklace in 9-karat yellow gold. This mood of individuality and experimentation is true to the necklaces' creation process: the metals and 3 stones can be combined to produce pieces that hold unique personal significance in a delicate silhouette. 

Around Kristin's neck hangs an extra length, 14kt gold hollow chain given to her by her Austrian Ouma, and what she has since sparked with pieces each holding their own special significance – and combining to be even more than the sum of their parts. There is a locket that was given to her on her 16th birthday, following a long family tradition, and a pearl apple pendant with diamond leaf which was a gift from a former boyfriend who helped her to set up Black Betty as a business. Finally, taking pride of place, there is a large labradorite pendant that was a gift from her Himalayan spiritual teacher, Usha. Kristin’s own spiritual journey has inspired and ignited many aspects of Black Betty and her creative process at large, so it's significant that labradorite is believed to hold protective properties and to enable its wearer to release their innate powers of intuition, contemplation and understanding.

 

FAMILY AND JEWELLERY

 

“There’s something about starting with the materials in the earth and following their journey from being found, moving between the different hands & craft of stone cutting to design, setting, to being packaged and gifted, worn then to be passed down from person to person in the family…” Kristin continues. For her, the honour of getting to work daily with these beautiful materials is immense. It’s become a key part of her own identity: “It grounds me & reminds me every day of who I am, where I come from and how I am connected.”

“Heirloom” Is a word with wealthy, Western connotations, as is “inheritance”. But consider them both outside of the material realm, and it becomes clear how universal the process of passing down precious gifts is: knowledge, rituals, and inevitably, character traits. Arguably the most appealing part of an heirloom is the reminder of our loved ones: their best traits, and the hope that we have inherited some of those, along with the physical items.

 

The Weixelbaumers

 

One of the best things about traditions is how easy it is to start your own with blood relatives or chosen family. In the same way, all that's needed to create an heirloom is something that you love deeply and someone to whom you'll pass it along. Throwing in a celebratory occasion doesn't hurt either. The monetary value and age of the item matter little and yes, you can make your loved ones into heirs while you're very much alive: think special birthday gifts and family rings that welcome new spouses to the family. It’s a far greater worth than the proverbial two months' salary.

In Kristin's family, the tradition of heirloom jewellery and the creativity that can come with it begins with a ring designed by her grandmother. Its undulating coils of gold resemble a snake with a black diamond for an eye, and today each other women and girls in the family have their own replica of the design with the eye in their birthstone. Another serpentine piece adorns Kristin's mother's wrist: The Diamond Snake Bangle.

 

Snake Bangle
 
On The Skull & Cross Bone Ring, one of Black Betty’s signature pieces, a diamond-eyed skull sits atop a band with skeletons up its sides. A passing glance at a collection of icons Kristen has chosen might suggest a taste for the sinister – with snakes alongside a selection of skulls. A second look, however, reveals a meaning that's a little more layered. In the memento mori art tradition, Kristin has chosen to use skulls to represent how fleeting and precious life is in The Skull Ring. The meaning of that Latin phrase is Remember you must die, meant to invoke an appreciation of life's fleeting pleasures – or, to use another Latin phrase that Kristin prefers in reference to this piece, CARPE DIEM.

Skull and Cross Bone Ring

“Far from being a representation of death, the skullies instead prompt us to celebrate the precious life that we’ve been given: to seize the day and make each and every moment count,”she explains. "After all, ​​I feel like the luckiest human alive with this beautiful craft that I’m part of.”
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Images:  Cassandra Collett / Words: Cayleigh Bright / Subject: The Weixelbaumers & their jewels


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