With This Ring...
My dad was big on giving my mom jewelry for special occasions - her birthday, their anniversary, Mother’s Day, Christmas, and so on. Growing up, I was never one to ask for jewelry as a gift. For me, I would much prefer new clothes. So I never knew I was a “Jewelry Girl” until I was in my 20s and my boyfriend, who later became my husband, started to buy me jewelry. If you know me well, you know I love surprises. So I was lucky that my husband had excellent taste and was really good at buying items I loved because he would surprise me with necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings throughout our time together. I found that I especially loved wearing rings.
The one ring my friends and I were most excited about receiving was an engagement ring. Some women had a definite idea of what type of ring they wanted: at least one carat; solitaire cut; g color; etc. and went shopping with their future spouse to make the selection. Others were uninvolved and surprised with the ring and the proposal; hopefully elated with both. And of course, there were many people in between these extremes, like myself. I wasn’t concerned about most details of the ring, but I knew I wanted a marquise! Yes, you guessed it. I was engaged during the sweet spot when the marquise was hot - the late 1980s/early 1990s.
Around that time, my boyfriend of 2 years and I went on a Caribbean cruise. I had been waiting for a while for him to propose. I was hopeful that he was going to ask me to marry him on this trip, and I even told a couple of my closest friends about my suspicions. However, when we got on the ship, he was acting so normal! Not nervous as if he was carrying around an expensive piece of jewelry or about to propose. The first and second nights passed with no indication that he was going to pop the question. I was anxious and a little embarrassed that I was going to have to face my friends at the end of the trip without a ring!
This particular cruise had 2 Evening Attire dinner events. On the first such night, we were waiting for our dessert course to arrive when our waiter and the maitre d' approached the table with an elaborate cheese carving on a silver tray. Cut flowers were sprinkled around the base of the carving. It was beautiful, but I had no idea what I was meant to do with it! The waiter excitedly pantomimed to search through the flowers. That is the moment it hit me - and I rifled through the flowers for what I was certain was a ring. When I pulled the ring from its hiding place, my boyfriend got on his knee and asked me to marry him. The tables surrounding us were filled with people cheering and whistling. The maitre d' popped a bottle of champagne, and I cried out my answer - “yes”! A perfect proposal.
My wedding band was the next ring I received that hurt my heart in a good way when I put it on. Our wedding was set in my hometown church. In addition to my church’s minister, we were honored to have a local Catholic priest participate in the ceremony. My husband was raised Catholic and I was raised Protestant, specifically Methodist. Both of us were raised with our religion as a central part of our lives, so it was important to honor our faith. My husband chose to use his grandfather’s wedding band. For my ring, we went with my mother-in-law and father-in-law to a jewelry design showcase to find the perfect band. My father-in-law was a jewelry model maker in NYC; how lucky was I to have an expert in the family to help me select the right ring. And we found my wedding band at this Expo. When my husband placed it on my finger during our ceremony, I remember crying again with happiness, just as I had when he asked me to marry him. My engagement ring and wedding band rarely left my finger during the next 28 years we were together.
For those of you who know me or have previously read my blog, you will know that my husband died in March of 2019. Not a day, in fact, barely a moment, goes by that I still do not think of him. And this leads me to the piece of jewelry I never wanted, never considered owning, and now will always treasure: my Widow’s Ring.
Everyone grieves differently. This is one adage that you hear all the time as a widow, and I have found it to be very true. For me, I tried to listen to my heart as well as my head. What I mean is that sometimes I wanted to crawl into a ball and not interact with the world, and that was okay. But there were times when I also pushed myself out of my safe place and lived in the discomfort for a while. Nothing felt safe anymore, so I needed to get used to it. Nothing felt comfortable anymore, so I needed to try to practice until it did. Fake It Until You Make It.
I remember clearly when I decided to do something different with my wedding band and engagement rings. My husband had been gone for nearly 3 years. I was in Florida visiting a friend, and I glanced at my left hand and felt it was wrong somehow. Not that I didn’t love and cherish my husband anymore! And not that I wanted to display to the world that I was now available to date again. I in no way felt “available,” but I also didn’t feel married. I was somewhere in between. I decided the best thing I could do was to honor my husband and our love for each other by creating something new. I worked with a local jeweler who helped me to determine exactly what I wanted. I showed him inspiration photos of some necklaces that I liked, as well as a hand-drawn picture of a ring design. I chose to have my engagement diamond, that beautiful marquise, as the centerpiece for a necklace. I reset the small diamonds from my wedding band in a ring that some might call a Statement Ring, but I call my Widow’s Ring. I will wear it with love as I carry Joe always in my heart.
Did you know? The cocktail ring came into style during Prohibition in the 1920s. During this time, the flappers, independent women who ignored the social norms of the day, would wear bobbed hair, short dresses, and lavish jewelry at wild alcohol-fueled parties. The signal for ordering the illegal drinks made with alcohol was a flapper’s raised right hand wearing a large ring, henceforth known as a Cocktail Ring.