When I was a little girl I had a silver friendship ring that had belonged to my mom when she was young. I still have a letter Mom wrote me when I was about 11 and away from home for the first time, visiting a friend in the Virginia neighborhood we had left to move to New York. “If you are feeling homesick,” she wrote, “just hold on to your ring. It’s like love, it goes around and round and never stops.”
Those words made a deep impression. I blame them for my adult ring obsession, but also for the way I feel about my wedding ring. Because if love is like a ring, with no beginning and no end, then how else does it resemble a ring? Smooth and shiny with a golden glow? Maybe — when it, and the ring, are brand new. But always?
I have only my own marriage to judge by of course, since I believe strongly that you can never know what’s going on in someone else’s (no matter how sure you are that you do.)
But if the thirty years of my marriage are anything to go by, love does not stay bright, smooth and and shiny forever. It gets roughed up along the way, takes on a rich patina, develops crevasses that you navigate your way across, suffers deep losses, quakes with fears, celebrates new beginnings and has amazing adventures. It’s altogether complex and nuanced and awesome.
My beautiful smooth gold wedding band symbolized an untried new love, but not 30 years in the trenches, even if it did still go round and round with no end and no beginning.
I think jewelry should evolve with our lives — changing circumstances, changing tastes, changing emotions. And it should reflect and embody the things that are important to us — one of my most cherished pieces is a charm necklace of rose gold with a “dog tag” engraved with the names of the dear and wonderful dogs that have been part of my life through the years. A rose-cut sapphire charm symbolizes each sweet pup. As time goes on and more animals have entered my life, their names go on the tags (I’ve filled two now, counting cats) and each gets a stone. That the necklace was made by the incredible Jennifer Dawes who has come to be a very good friend makes it all the more meaningful. In times of worry or stress, I hang on to those charms and tags and decades of unconditional love remind me that however things are, they are just the way they should be. The moment is enough.
So, anyway, my wedding ring.
This may be heresy for some people but for me, it makes visceral sense. I wore that plain gold band for 25 years, sometimes paired with a stone, sometimes not. On our 25th anniversary, Jennifer designed an anniversary ring — an eternity ring of sorts with waves of colored diamonds, going round and round and never stopping. But it was too big to wear with my wedding ring, so we took a big step and redesigned it. It was not without a pang that I left the band with Jennifer to redo, but it was the right thing. She made my wedding ring slimmer, and studded it with tiny white diamonds. I often wore it with a band of gold circled multicolored sapphires. That seemed right — a celebration of a marriage more colorful, more adventuresome and more capable of growth than I had had any idea of.
For our thirtieth, I wanted a ring to reflect that. An eternity ring of diamonds, but no neat and tidy ring for me. I had seen in Jen’s studio some rough (uncut) natural cognac-colored diamonds that seemed to glow with a banked fire. They were neither orderly nor tidy; they were raw and organic, wild and beautiful; much more like the real life relationship our marriage had grown to be.
Jennifer is a ring whisperer. She and I talked, she sketched, we talked some more. She heard what I was saying and produced a ring I will always cherish. There is nothing smooth and simple about it, but all of it is real. Raw diamonds, lit from within, hammered gold (the same gold that formed my first two wedding rings, reborn), an organic circle around my finger, not a linear path but a stunning river of diamonds, finding its own way.
And yet, still a ring. Like love, going round and round with no beginning and no end.