Heirloom ornaments are traditionally passed down through generations of a family. They can be anything that is special to someone in that family and deemed worthy of preserving for future descendants. The possibilities for different types of heirloom ornaments are endless, but they usually can be categorized as one of several kinds. A few types are often purchased new, like the dated "keepsake ornaments" sold by a variety of manufacturers, and other ornaments marketed as "collectible." Other types are older, such as vintage or antique ornaments that have already stood the test of time. Another type is homemade.
An ornament doesn't have to be expensive to be an heirloom, although being well made with high quality materials can help it last much longer. Many greeting card companies and other manufacturers sell keepsake ornaments that are inscribed with the year. These portray a range of themes and are made to cater to a vast array of interests. They are also often sold in continuing series so that the consumer can purchase a new ornament each year, thereby slowly building a collection. They also frequently depict milestone events like "baby's first Christmas."
Ornaments marketed as collectible are often purchased for use as heirloom ornaments and can be relatively expensive. They are typically offered by the manufacturers of fine china, crystal, or glassware or by companies that make other collectibles such as figurines or ceramic houses. One extremely popular style is colorful intricate blown glass ornaments. These can be themed to go along with existing collections, interests, or hobbies. They can often make a statement about the person to whom they belong.
Other collectible heirloom ornaments may have less personal significance but are desirable simply as works of art. They may depict traditional themes such as stars, snowflakes, Christmas trees, or Santa Claus. They are often made by hand with meticulous craftsmanship and attention to detail. These ornaments often use expensive materials and finishes and command high prices.
Often heirloom ornaments are of vintage variety. People may seek out unique ornaments at antique shops, tag sales, and flea markets, or they may receive them passed down from family members. These ornaments often already have stories and family history that go with them and add to their personal significance. They are frequently treasured reminders of loved ones and time spent with family.
Possibly the most personal type of heirloom ornament is the homemade variant. These are often created by a member of the family and can serve as mementos of that person or of specific events. Some examples are ornaments made by children in school and quilted or painted ornaments handmade by family members. Depending on the type of ornament, these can be the most fragile and difficult to preserve but many people feel it is worth the effort given their sentimental value.