- Courtesy of Kerry Neville
- My first engagement ring was bought in a market in Turkey, and didn’t quite suit me.
- My second engagement ring, with a tiny, cracked emerald, suited at first but fell apart quickly.
- For me, it would be the fourth time’s a charm, and with this ring, I me wed.
Many years ago, my now-ex-husband bought my first engagement ring while he was traveling solo in Turkey: a thin-banded silver and brass signet ring with Arabic script.
“The letter ‘K,'” he explained. A lovely, thoughtful souvenir from the souk (or market) but when he knelt and offered it to me?
“Yes!” I said to him with enthusiasm, to the ring saying a disappointed and silent “no.” At the time, we were both in graduate school, earning graduate assistant wages, so I understood that he didn’t have a secret engagement ring savings account (though he did have one for his summer travel in Turkey and Greece).
Given those financial practicalities, I didn’t expect a flashy diamond but had hoped for a ring that would reflect my taste, as well as our mutual dreams. At the time, I’d never been to Turkey, did not read Arabic, and had imagined a more ceremonial ring that wouldn’t bend and warp around my finger with daily wear.
I wore the ring for a few weeks without comment, though friends and family wondered if Arabic had any romantic significance for us as a couple. “‘One Thousand and One Nights’ together?” a friend asked.
“No, more like five hundred,” I laughed, unable to explain his inexplicable choice. “It’s a placeholder until we find the right one,” I said. My disappointment felt more like my own shame over my vanity and materialism, but I could not love this ring. When a friend who knew Arabic looked at the script, he said, “That’s not a ‘K’ but a backwards [letter] ‘qaaf’ for Mohammed.”
Yes, I told myself, a placeholder ring. I kept the ring facing my palm so only the silver band was visible. One evening, I turned to my fiancé and casually and carefully said, “Maybe something a little more me?”
“Feel free to look,” he said. “But there’s no money.”
A tiny, cracked emerald surrounded by six tiny diamonds in rose gold would come second
I looked and found my second engagement ring in the bottom of a display case in a dusty antique shop: a tiny, cracked emerald surrounded by six teeny tiny diamonds in rose gold. And $350.00 … The emerald, imperfect as it was, was a lovely growing color, and it fit and was cheap. My fiancé shrugged when I slipped it on my finger.
“It’s not much,” I said. A few extra shifts waiting tables? Two months without beer and booze?
“Fine,” he said. “I’ll split it with you.” We each wrote a check and I left with the new ring on my finger, but my ebullience was undercut by the negotiated transaction. His halfsies message said: You’re not worth saving up for and my love has limits.
Over the next six years, the teeny tiny diamonds fell out of the ring and the crack splintered across the entire emerald. By then we’d made a whole life together. We’d finished our degrees, were gainfully employed, bought one house and then another, had a child and even some savings.
With $2,500, the third would be an Edwardian, old mine cut diamond ring
“How much do you love me?” A diamond ring is a simplistic answer to this question, but when it is chosen with love and intention? Even a one-fourth carat or a tumbled pebble or a tattooed band can speak to infinite love.
“Find something you like and send me the links,” my then-husband said, when I pointed out that we’d paid the ring’s worth in repairs several times over.
I scoured the internet with a happy budget of $2,500 and found an Edwardian, old mine cut diamond ring and sent him the link. That Christmas, he gave me a tiny box wrapped with a red bow and the ring was inside.
Happily ever after again? I believed this re-engagement ring, with our mutual investment, might’ve helped our troubled marriage but of course, no ring can save what is fundamentally broken and eventually, we divorced, and I slipped the ring off my finger.
It’s silly when you think about how much we invest – in money and meaning – in an engagement ring. Though even superficially, these three rings were meaningful: the Arabic ring revealed that my then-boyfriend did not really know me; the halfsies revealed that we both didn’t believe I was worth the long-term investment; and the final ring revealed that diamonds are pretty but no substitute for love.
With this ring, I me wed
After the divorce, I hid that ring along with the others in a box in a dresser drawer but one day, while tossing unmatched socks, ratty bras, and saggy undergarments, I opened the box and looked at the rings. Sadness welled up, but then, surprisingly, dissipated and I knew exactly what I needed to do.
I traded in the rings for one of my choosing: tiny diamonds that surround a true-blue aquamarine stone.
- Courtesy of Kerry Neville
“Too much?” I asked the jeweler. The ring was up-front flashy, demanding the world to take notice.
The jeweler said, “Walk around the block and see how it feels. You don’t seem like the kind of woman who should hide behind something small. Call it your self-engagement ring.”
I walked around the block a few times, and with each lap, felt the rightness of this ring: aquamarine is believed to guide travelers, mermaids, and sailors on the blue sea, so a perfect stone for my travels through this life I now forge on my own.
I paid more than its trade-in value with cash and credit, and while it took several months to pay off, I am worth the long-term investment. With this ring, I me wed, and am now free from the past that dogged my happily ever.
- Read more:
- How engagement rings have changed over the past 100 years
- The 4 mistakes you’re most likely to make when choosing an engagement ring
- There are 2 telltale signs that a diamond is fake, according to a woman who designs and sells 6-figure engagement rings
- I returned my engagement ring but accepted the proposal, and I’m not sorry I did it