Monday, 13 February 2012
A ring of truth
Herewith this week's Closet Thinker: an alternative Valentine, with thanks, as always, to Mio Matsumoto for the lovely illustration.
This is the weekend when journalistic tradition demands that readers are advised to buy suitably romantic items, to wear our hearts on our sleeves and flash rings on our fingers, in readiness for Valentine’s Day. But having gone through the acutely unromantic experience of divorce, I know how unhelpful it is to be urged towards displays of tender coupledom; indeed, it was only three years ago that I spent the evening of February 14th watching ‘The Wrestler’ on DVD with my friend Susan (a double date after her bereavement and my separation), and very therapeutic it was too, seeing Mickey Rourke being slammed into the ground.
That said, I have come to realize that rings are to be treasured, encircling as they do the rituals, romances and losses of a life. Those I wear now are from my mother; on the middle finger of my right hand, a diamond that she was given by her mother-in-law, my Russian grandmother, who brought it as an émigré, fleeing from persecution (a jewel that could be slipped into a pocket, one of the very few valuables her generation carried into safety). And two other maternal inheritances: a delicate coral ring, and a Victorian garnet – the gem clasped in tiny gold hands – in memoriam of her maiden name, Garnett.
My wedding ring is in a safe place – no longer worn, but impossible to forsake (my ex-husband is, after all, the father of our two beloved sons). I didn’t buy myself a divorce ring, although it did occur to me that some sort of ritual might have been appropriate (certainly not a party, but perhaps an emblem to represent the long legal and emotional process). If I were to have wanted a non-Valentine’s piece, I might have found a suitable design by the young British jeweller Claire English; her gold Smouldering Spent Match ring, for example, or a silver Wishbone ring (£225 and £115 respectively, from Elizabeth Galton Studio).
Instead, rather magically, I woke up on Christmas morning to find a moonstone in my stocking; at least a century old, but still shimmering with a silvery gleam. I’m not wearing it quite yet – it is being set in white gold, at John Lawrence jewellers in Hatton Garden (one of those long-standing, traditional workshops that are reminders of the subtle overlaps between the past and the present in the city, and perhaps in an emotional landscape, as well). When the ring is finished, it will be slipped onto my engagement finger; for yes, there is a life after divorce, and beyond Valentine’s Day, as well…