19 women on the most thoughtful, unique gifts they've ever been given

We asked 19 women about the best, most thoughtful and sentimental gifts they’ve ever gifted or been given for the ultimate tried-and-tested Christmas present inspiration. 

Picking a gift can be difficult at the best of times. Many of us struggle to come up with something original, and whether you’re buying for your best friend, partner or family, it’s so easy to fall back on classic presents like pyjamas or perfume. 

But this year, you could argue, is even harder. We haven’t been able to see our friends and family as much, so those opportunities to pick up on little hints of the kinds of things they’re lusting after have been scarce. 

There have also been fewer opportunities to share in experiences like days out or holidays that could lend themselves as present ideas, such a token from a trip. 

So, as this is a year when many of us want to create a more special Christmas than ever, we’ve been thinking about unique, thoughtful and sentimental gifts that really mean something. 

But what’s better than theorising about a gift to make someone smile? Well, the tried-and-tested product, of course. We’ve asked 19 women to tell us about the most thoughtful gifts that they’ve ever given or received, to give us some unique and creative ideas for gifting in 2020. 

From a homemade cushion using the clothes of a much-loved relative to designing a ring using the birthstones of all those in the family, these presents are truly heartwarming. Keep reading to get some ideas that are bound to bowl over your loved ones.

  • “Second hand editions of my favourite childhood books, from back in the day!”

    “An amazing Christmas pressie my husband got me a few years back was the full Little House series of books. He’d heard me talk about them now and again and went to a special online book dealer to get old second-hand editions (the same as in my childhood).

    “It was totally unexpected and a really sweet, nostalgic throwback to growing up.” Anna, 38

    Shop The Complete Flower Fairies by Cicely Mary Barker at Folio Society, £89.95

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  • “A personalised calendar with my year in review”

    “Every year me and my best friend make each other personalised calendars which show the highlights of our year, kind of like a year in review. 

    “We pick out trips we’ve taken, our best photos, achievements, personal jokes and all that jazz. It’s such a lovely part of my Christmas time and has become a tradition I like forward to every year.” Sam, 31

    Shop personalised calendar at Rosemood, £23

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  • “A four-photo vintage locket’

    “OK, this isn’t a Christmas present but it is the best present I’ve ever received. Growing up me and my twin sister were best, best friends with the two sisters that were part of the family who lived opposite us. 

    “They’re still our closest friends to this day, and when I turned 18 (which was over 10 years ago now), they all clubbed together to buy me a heart-shaped, antique gold locket. 

    “Because it’s vintage it feels timeless, so even as I’ve got older I still wear it all the time. The best part is it has a fold out photo frame inside so there’s a picture of each one of us in there.” Jess, 30

    Shop Friends And Family Locket by Silk Purse, Sow’s Ear at Notonthehighstreet, £39

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  • “A beautifully covered hardback book”

    “I love getting the hard copy of books that I’ve been excited for all year. I could just wait for a cheaper paperback but hardback feels more special (and looks prettier on my bookshelf, obvs). 

    “It makes reading it even more of an event and if you drop hints about the book you want, they know they’re getting you something you’ll definitely love.” Hollie, 30

    Shop The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy at Waterstones, £14.99 (was £16.99)

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  • “A Christmas bauble that reminded me of home”

    “I moved to Canada for two years and planned on spending the first Christmas out there. I went with my boyfriend so I had him to share the day with but I knew it would be difficult as I’m so close with my family and girl gang from school, with whom I have a lot of special festive traditions.

    “One of my friends knew how much Christmas in London meant to me. We both lived there and would spend evenings in December walking around Covent Garden, staring at the tree and sipping mulled wine. 

    “She also knows that my family have a tradition that we buy a bauble from every place we go on holiday. So, to remind me of home, she sent me a Liberty London bauble to epitomise the festive period in the capital. 

    “The fact that it got to me on the other side of the world really choked me up and having that little bit of home meant everything.” Jo, 28

    Shop Liberty embroidered snow dome decoration at Liberty London, £24.95 

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  • “A pendent that symbolised our relationship”

    “One of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received was from my boyfriend, who bought me the ‘Pigeon Post Pendant’ from Lylie’s Sustainable Jewellery.

    Not only is the necklace made from salvaged silver from recycled mobile phones – a unique twist I found really special – but the pendant’s design served as a symbol of our connection during a year when we had to spend so much time apart. I’m not one for cheesy, but I absolutely loved it.” Lauren, 23

    Shop the pigeon post pendant necklace at Lylies, £115

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  • “Homemade cushion crafted from our grandma’s skirt”

    “I work in interior design now but I did a degree in textiles and I’m handy with a sewing machine. When my mum’s mum passed away she was obviously devastated so when it came to Christmas I crafted a pillow from one of her old kilts.

    “She loved Scotland and had collected lots of them, so it meant more that mum knew how much granny adored those kilts and what they stood for – lots of happy memories.

    “Instead of being in a cupboard somewhere, that kilt is now out for my mum to see every day and I think she loves that. So, it’s not a gift I’ve been given, but it’s one that I most enjoyed giving.” Simone, 27

    Shop memory cushion at Lily Grace Keepsakes, £39.95

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  • “A replica of my mum’s engagement ring”

    “My mum always knew I loved her emerald engagement ring and spoke about how she’d give it to me when I had kids to pass down. 

    “Sadly, one day, the stone sadly fell down the sink and we couldn’t retrieve it. That following year she surprised me my very own emerald ring. I actually cried, it was so beautiful and is one of the most precious things I own.” Hanna, 30

    Shop Siren medium stacking ring at Monica Vinader, £100

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  • “My very own letter to Hogwarts”

    “Me and my boyfriend are big Harry Potter fans and for Christmas last year he did the unthinkable and got me into Hogwarts.

    “Well, not quite. But he did get us tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, a show which I thought I’d never end up saving up enough money to see. 

    “When he presented me with my gift, he first gave me a letter addressed to me personally, inviting me to go to Hogwarts. It was even sealed with a red, wax seal of the Hogwarts crest! I couldn’t believe it.

    “On the day he crowned me with a Hufflepuff scarf (my house through and through) and treated us to champagne as the show started. A truly thoughtful execution of a lovely, lovely gift.” Megan, 29

    Shop personalised Hogwarts letter at Platform 9 ¾, £15

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  • “A surprise film camera”

    “I’ve always loved being creative but outside snapping my dinner for Instagram (I’m a food writer, forgive me?) I haven’t ever considered buying a proper camera and getting to grips with photography. 

    “Last Christmas my fiance surprised me with a film camera and it has been a highlight of 2020 for me. It’s a gift that keeps giving because as I’ve learnt more about how to use it, the more excited and enthusiastic I have become. 

    “I love that I never even thought it was something I wanted, and that it’s something I’ll have for years and that I get to keep making memories with.” Rosie, 30

    Shop Canon AE-1 35mm SLR film camera at Film Camera Store, £260

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  • “The necklace I never thought we could afford as a family”

    “When I was 21 my mum asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I had it in my head that a gold four leaf clover pendent was what I wanted, but when we looked online they were all really expensive.

    “Tiffanys had one that was perfect and obviously I was excited by such an iconic name, but we both agreed that the price was ridiculous and way out of our family’s budget.

    “When it came to Christmas day I was overcome with childlike excitement when I opened my present and it was the Tiffanys necklace, the one I had absolutely adored from the beginning. I still wear it most days.” Meredith, 29

    Shop four-leaf clover pendant by Dodo at Farfetch, £155

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  • “A vinyl record with messages from my family on”

    “My dad is a big music buff and obviously when he thinks about loving music as a teenager, he thinks of vinyls and record players, something he thinks is a crying shame that young people of today don’t appreciate. 

    “One Christmas he gifted me with a record player to keep in my room so I could listen to my own music and one vinyl to get me started. 

    “When I put it on, it was my family singing ‘We wish you a merry Christmas’ followed by messages of why they love me. It was so thoughtful and unexpected.” Annie, 24

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  • “An engraved necklace”

    “I’m really close to my two older sisters and last Christmas, they gifted me a gorgeous gold circle necklace. On one side, it has our names engraved on it and on the other, the word ‘sisters’. 

    “They’re both busy mums of two and one of them lives abroad so knowing they took the time to organise a gift really meant the world to me.” Ciara, 31

    Shop Merci Maman personalised intertwined charm necklace at John Lewis & Partners, £89

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  • “A portrait of my puppy”

    “The year my dog died my family knew how I upset I was and so they clubbed together and had a portrait of him drawn by an illustrator. 

    “They picked a picture from when he was a puppy and it was so cutest, loveliest thing. Obviously, I cried my eyes out when I opened it but now it’s something I treasure.” Laura, 35

    Shop personalised pet illustration at Notonthehighstreet, £40

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  • “A handmade booklet of presents to choose from”

    “One year my then-boyfriend was away on a ski season, so he knew we wouldn’t be spending Christmas together. 

    “He couldn’t afford to get me a present at the point in time, but I had just moved to London for university and still didn’t have a bed. 

    “So, he researched all the beds he thought I would most like in his price range, printed pictures of them all and bound them together like a little book, with funny descriptions of why he thought I would like each one. 

    “He even included a bedding set next to each one that he thought would look good with it and gave the ‘looks’ names such as ‘princess pad’ or ‘English countryside’.

    “It took six months for the ski season to end, but I did eventually get my bed and I didn’t mind waiting after he put so much effort in.” Matilda, 26

    Shop personalised photo book at Papier, from £20

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  • “A ring with all of my family’s birthstones”

    “One year my mum had a ring made for me with all my families birthstones in it.

    “I had to go with her to help design it/have my finger measured and it made the experience all the more special that we did it together.” Alyss, 20

    Shop personalised textured confetti birthstone ring at Notonthehighstreet, £194

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  • “A song all about me”

    “One year my partner surprised me by writing and then serenading me with a song that he had written about me.

    “It was both hilarious and adorably sentimental. He included some really funny lines to reference personal jokes and said some sweet things as well. It was such a surprise.” Hayley, 28

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  • “An artwork made from my sister’s passport stickers”

    “I’ve always been a bit crafty and I love taking my time to create something special for my best friends and family. My big sister is travel obsessed and loves getting stamps on her passport so I carefully cut out each one and backed it with felt, stitching it into a little token.

    “Then I attached each one to a map of the world and stitched little lines to show where she has been, to remind her of all the adventures she’s had.

    “So, it’s not a gift I’ve received, but I absolutely loved giving it.” Carry, 29

    Shop crafting supplies at Hobbycraft

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  • “A jar of date ideas”

    “My partner wrote out 25 different date ideas on strips of paper and popped them in a jar for me, promising that we’d do them all before the next Christmas came around.

    “Some were really simple such as watching a certain film we had kept saying we would see or trying a restaurant in our neighbourhood for the first time. Some were a little more organised like visiting Kew Gardens or booking a London bus tour. And a few were proper showstoppers with ideas for trips away or really romantic evenings that he promised to orchestrate. 

    “It’s smart because it gives you something to look forward to for the whole year, and although it sounds impressive, doesn’t actually take that much work to start off with!” Luna, 23

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Images: Papier / courtesy of brands

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