May 13, 2024


How Photography Captures the Beauty of Heirloom Jewelry

Created by Ali Coşkunfrom the Noun Project

As a wedding photographer, I absolutely love when my couples incorporate heirloom jewelry in their details. Whether it’s a family heirloom ring or a watch, it’s a beautiful tribute to the past as well (and definitely counts as something old!). When you’re documenting something so inherently valuable for your couples, it’s important to keep in mind how photography captures the beauty of heirloom jewelry.

Documenting Heirloom Jewelry for Weddings

Over the years, I’ve definitely seen quite a few antique heirloom pieces, or had brides repurpose older pieces into more modern designs. And considering more than 40% of people have a family heirloom that’s at least 50 years old, it’s not surprising to see so many couples using them for wedding bands, necklaces, earrings or bracelets. 

If you’re a bride or groom, have family heirloom jewelry and want to include them in your wedding details, make sure to let your photographer know about them!

It is our job as wedding photographers to document a beautiful moment on camera while honoring loved ones with meaningful jewelry. 

Utilize Creative Light

Ask any photographer, and they’ll tell you – lighting is key to a good photograph. For heirloom jewelry, I like to use creative lighting to have jewelry standout in photos. Sometimes that means using shadows in a unique way, or photographing at a slightly wider depth of field to create bokeh with string lights in the background.

Include Jewelry in Wedding Flatlays

There are many types of heirlooms, and endless ways to portray them in a wedding detail photo. Whether your couple has bracelets, tie pins, or brooches, you can include them in a wedding detail flatlay. I will use them with invitation suites, vow books or flowers, as well! I believe that family history is shown through heirlooms like rings and pendants, and adding them to detail shots just makes them that much more special. For these photos, I will typically use my Nikon 35mm, which is my favorite lens for photojournalism. It’s wide enough to be versatile, without a lot of distortion.

Macro Details to Show History

Valuable heirlooms are difficult to explain, they are more than a piece of metal and a rock. I like to use my Nikon 105mm lens to get really close up detail images, which can sometimes show wear and tear. I know that might seem kind of crazy to do! But, I think that while the knicks, scratches and other types of things can ‘depreciate’ the item, those imperfections help tell the story of that particular piece. Utilizing a macro lens will provide a more detailed picture of the heirloom, and it will show off all of the details that most people won’t catch in passing. 

These pieces of jewelry are often passed down from generation to generation and they come with significant value and endless emotions. While we might not be able to give their jewelry justice with words, we can still express the importance of them in a picture!

If your family doesn’t already have an heirloom, you can start the tradition. Emeralds are a popular choice, they are rich and beautiful, but also intriguing (to find inspiration and a final choice, choose from this collection). I haven’t photographed an emerald wedding ring yet – but, I’ve seen them on celebrities before and they’re absolutely beautiful! 

Make Sure The Heirloom Jewelry Shines

If your couple has jewelry that’s been passed down from a family member, it’s likely been sitting in a box for a while. As such, it will be a little dull or dirty. I always recommend that photographers remind their brides and grooms to have their jewelry cleaned prior to the wedding day. It can be professionally done, or using an at-home jewelry cleaning kit – but either way, it should be done in the days leading up to the wedding. Wedding days are stressful enough as it is, and we don’t want to stress anyone out that day about making sure their jewelry is clean!

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photographing heirloom jewelry

© ashley durham photography