Are you looking for some keepsake ideas that fulfill both timelessness and quality? Those that are simple, but can be passed down through the generations as family heirlooms and treasures, without breaking the bank?
Jump ahead to these sections:
- High School Graduation Keepsake Ideas
- College Graduation Keepsake Ideas
- Elementary School or Middle School Keepsake Ideas
You could probably look at all the keepsakes inside your home and know exactly who gave it to you, when, and maybe even something about the weather. That’s what these little treasures do—they’re so much more than just a gift.
High School Graduation Keepsake Ideas
If you're like me, your motto is, "if you buy quality, then you only buy it once." That may mean adding a few dollars to the final price, but none of us like to pay for the same thing twice. That's why the following keepsakes ideas fulfill both quality and timelessness in some way.
1. Vintage french ormolu box
French Ormolu jewelry boxes were all the rage in the Victorian era. With details of gold filigree and beveled glass, anything tucked inside remains visible. Online marketplaces list them as low as $20, but you can spend a lot more if it’s in your budget.
Add an heirloom locket to make it even more special.
2. Silver necklace or dog tags
Whether it’s a sterling silver necklace or a chain with some dog tags, you'll be sure it's a gift that they'll treasure for a lifetime. Ask your jeweler to make a tiny tag to attach at the clasp or an engraving on the back of the dog tag for more personalization.
3. Engraved tools
Is your child heading to school for industrial arts or cosmetology (or a similar trade)? If so, a good set of tools can get them into business ownership faster than you think.
Whether that includes scissors or a chainsaw, you’re sure to find a professional out there to engrave anything.
Most graduates can benefit from practical multi-tools. They make fabulous, engraved gifts that your graduate will enjoy their whole life long. Plus, they’re super functional for a wide variety of needs, from trekking on the Pacific Crest Trail or just moving into their first apartment.
You’ll discover some all-purpose ones and a few that are specific to a need or event, like camping. Store clerks can help you decide what will serve your kid’s interests the best.
A gap travel year after high school isn't uncommon. But how does a high school graduate afford to do that? There are many ways to work under the table while staying in hostels. But if they wind up crewing on a yacht, a sextant makes the perfect gift.
It'll be your way of letting them know that the stars can also guide them home.
6. Charm bracelet
Charm bracelets are one of the most brilliant keepsake gifts. There's always an important event to commemorate—and charm to go with it.
College Graduation Keepsake Ideas
Sentimental gifts and family heirlooms make the perfect gifts, especially when reaching momentous heights. Look through your keepsake box, and you're sure to find one or two that are suitable for this one. Otherwise, find an artist to create something just for them.
Perhaps your grandfather used a compass during wartime, or your mom used one to backpack through Europe. A compass might end up being the thing that grounds your child when a new job or town gets to be too much.
8. Keepsake wooden lockbox
A wooden lockbox sounds like a boring, practical gift unless it's handmade. With museum-quality dovetailing and accents, plus a few personalized inscriptions, you can turn an ordinary box into an heirloom.
9. Custom embossed wallet
Money clips tend to be a little highbrow these days, but people will always need a place to store their IDs and debit cards. Even if you're using piñatex and other faux leathers, you're sure to find a cobbler who can add the embossment.
10. Embossed passport holder
With remote work on the rise, it's possible to hop on a plane to work from a beach in Tasmania or the mountains in Peru. No matter what journey the college graduate is about to start, they'll need a safe, memorable holder for their passport.
11. Fountain pen
While it's not every graduate's ambition to leave a mark on the world, it is for some. If that’s the case, an engraved, gorgeous fountain pen can be a reminder of that young but ambitious hope. Look for one with a case that's equally as beautiful, so they’ll be proud of its place on their desk.
12. Music box
Music boxes are like an outward expression of the song that’s inside your heart. If you've got one to hand down, commemorate college graduation with it and turn the day into a memory. If not, shop locally for one that fits the spirit of the occasion.
13. Commissioned jewelry
Most jewelry purchased is ready-made. However, you can commission one-of-a-kind jewelry for a fraction of what you think it’ll cost. And it’s super easy to do. To get inspired, take a look at some old artwork or use some letters from their handwriting.
With the right artist, the experience can change your mind about box store jewelry altogether.
14. Crystal globe
Pistol, in Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor, coined a phrase that many still use today. But the world does feel like one's oyster with a new degree in one hand and a restless ambition in the other.
Commemorate that with an inscribed crystal globe—and hope it’s never turned into a tired paperweight.
Paleontologists, geologists, and geneticists can agree that fossils are super cool. The preserved remains of ancient specimens immortalized in stone are more than just rocks; they're beautiful representations of life. It's the perfect keepsake for any graduate utterly fascinated by the history of our planet.
16. First edition or signed book
Most English majors and bibliophiles would love to get their hands on a first edition book. But that may be out of the price range for a lot of people’s budgets. Still, it’s almost certain that you can find a signed copy of a contemporary author—one they’ll treasure as a keepsake.
There's sure to be a piece of art that thrills the recent graduate, whether they are Inuit carvings or scrimshaw. Maybe it'll be the first art piece of many, or perhaps it'll inspire them to work in philanthropy to preserve traditional places and Native American histories.
Elementary School or Middle School Keepsake Ideas
Quality keepsake items for kids may seem a bit contradictory, especially if they're as rough and tumble as I was, but believe it or not, there are many great options from which to choose. If buying something doesn’t appeal to you, go out for ice cream or a movie and tell your kids that you’re proud of them.
18. German-made wooden toys
As I mentioned earlier, I'm a "buy it once" kind of person. With German toys, you get quality, craftsmanship, and durability. Those three things combined turn them into keepsake items for your child, their children, and so on.
19. Used SLR camera
Do you have a budding Pulitzer-winning photographer on your hands? One who's continuously attached to their smartphone? If that's the case, middle school might be the right time to introduce them to a high-quality SLR camera. Plus, they'll learn how to take pictures for an entirely different purpose.
20. Silver coins and piggy bank
Quality and craftsmanship come with every silver dollar you buy. Stick with the US mint or branch out to other countries for some coins if you like, too. By the end of their schooling, you’ll have provided your child with ample reason to continue the yearly tradition of collecting one new and special coin.
21. Interfaith keepsakes
Commemorate each year of elementary school with an age-appropriate keepsake fit for any faith or religion, giving each of them a yearly stamp. That way, when they're off on their own, it'll provide them with a chance to think of home.
22. Clay handprints
If these aren’t part of their curriculum at school, make a fun parent-child project for home. It’ll be something they’ll look back on with wonder throughout the years as hands grow and age.
23. Silhouette cutouts
Both the ancient Egyptians and the Romans lay claim to the origin of the silhouette. But it was the French who gave it the name we use today.
No matter the history or origination, it’s a project you can do with your child. Choose a quality frame to make it a great keepsake.
24. Star registry
When kids are little, stars are places where they put all of their hopes and dreams. They can also be small beacons of light throughout their journeys with faith and religion.
Once the certificate arrives, grab a blanket and head outside with a telescope. Turn the night into a keepsake for their hearts as opposed to one for a shelf.
25. Scrapbook or memory board
Scrapbooks and memory boards have a diary-like result. In scrapbooks, kids can glue newspaper clippings or buttons and scraps from a favorite old dress. Or, they can pin up photos of their friends or ribbons won on memory boards.
No matter what they want to save from that school year, they can keep all those memories in one spot.
Celebrating Big Days with a Keepsake
The unspoken purpose of a keepsake gift has nothing to do with the gift itself. While it's lovely to hold onto treasures and trinkets, it’s the memories they cause about a particular time and place that matters. That's the real purpose—to remember the ones who love us.