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Committed to Memory: Southern Engraving Traditions

Garden & Gun staffers share their favorite engravings


Chances are good that if you look closely at any Southerner’s sideboard, bookshelf, or jewelry box, you’ll find an engraved item on display. The pieces are nostalgic, marking life events and family traditions. But they’re also refreshing in the digital age—a memory made permanent with a visit to a jewelry shop that’s likely always been the go-to for a particular Southern city or town. (Here in Charleston, there are many, but Corkie Harden at Croghan’s Jewelry is legendary.) And behind those delicate etchings, you’ll also find something else that’s very Southern: A good story. In that spirit, we asked several Garden & Gun staffers to share the ones behind their favorite engraved pieces.

“This pocket watch was my great-grandfather Hutchison’s. He died in Charlotte, North Carolina, during the 1918 influenza pandemic. The watch was one of the only things my grandfather—who became an orphan after his mother died of the illness as well—had of his father’s. Before my parents’ wedding, my grandfather gave it to my dad who had it engraved to mark the occasion. The back of the watch reads: “To Beverly on our wedding day. 5-15-82. Love Always, Len.”  My parents have been married for 33 years now, and I don’t remember a time when my mom didn’t wear it regularly. She doesn’t wear a lot of jewelry so the watch is something of her signature in my mind.”

—Elizabeth Hutchison, Assistant Editor, @hutchison210


“My daughter, Hampton, inherited over a dozen engraved silver baby cups when she was born. The most unique has three generations of my husband’s namesake engraved on the same cup: RHK 1909, RHK, Jr. 1937, and RHK III 1969.  I love the different fonts and engraving styles chosen for each generation.”

—Maggie Kennedy, Photo Director

“We used the knife and serving set during the cake cutting ceremony at our wedding. It symbolized the joining of our families who were represented on our big day. The engraving is special to us because it has our unique wedding date on it—12-13-14—the last sequential date of this century.”

—Ryan Reed, Associate Digital Media Editor, @ryanreed

“The belt buckle and julep cup belonged to my great-grandfather, Robert Howard Jones. He ran a hotel and restaurant for most of his life, and he was one of those larger-than-life ancestors whose lessons and favorite sayings we all know by heart. He wore the belt buckle often, but I doubt he ever drank a mint julep on his own time. The cup was a gift from his younger brother, Alfred “Bill” Jones, who was also in the hospitality business. Bill founded the Sea Island resort in Georgia—which has done considerably better over the years than our small-town inn! He handed out engraved julep cups at a party marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of his marriage to Katherine Talbot.”

—Jed Portman, Assistant Editor, @jedportman

“This silver loving cup was given to us by two thoughtful friends as a wedding gift. I love the symbolism behind the two-handled design often used at weddings through the centuries in Europe, and I love the sentiment of seeing our full names and details of our wedding date in Charleston engraved in such pretty script. It’s definitely one of the pieces I would grab if our house was on fire!”

—Haskell Harris, Style Director, @haskellharris