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 Рthe gem clasped in tiny gold hands Рin 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…

19 comments:

enid said...

Moon stones are gorgeous and I am so pleased that you are going to get one. You deserve it !!!! I hate all the roses and chocolates and furry kittens that are brought out to herald Valentines Day. I too had a lovely ring from my grandmother - but sadly it got lost. I always hope it turns up but it has been gone for so long. Enjoy your new life with a new partner= you can reinvent yourself. Happy Valentine's day

Justine Picardie said...

Thank you, Enid, as always. Reinvention or evolution? Both sound good to me...

Susan said...

Lovely post. I too love my inherited pieces and wear them all the time. One of my favorites is an amethyst given to me by my rather eccentric grandmother-she felt that everyone should have a ring that they could wear on the NYC subway! Needless to say I of course opted to wear it only when I was taking the bus or a taxi!

jaywalker said...

The ring sounds as if it will be lovely. Rings often tell the story of our lives don't they. Mine is somewhat unromantic - I still wear the sapphire that my ex-husband gave me on my 40th and the ruby he gave me on my 42nd birthday, before I left him on my 43rd. Ah well, they are both too nice not to keep on wearing them.
My late MIL was also unsentimental - when my FIL died she found he had a huge solitaire diamond, fleur-de-lis cravat pin, once owned by the Duke of Windsor. She took one look at it when it emerged from his safe box and immediately had it taken apart and turned into a stunning ring.
My engagement and wedding ring have disappeared - a bit like the marriage - bought too soon, too cheap and with not enough thought! My partner is totally unromantic and so I bought myself a new plain gold band for use overseas when it's easier than explanations about the nature of modern relationships!

kairu said...

I love the sound of your moonstone, Justine!

I love rings; I can't help looking at other people's, when I meet them. I have several given to me by my mother, at different ages. Perhaps she feels that in case I'm single forever, it will still be all right! One is a small sapphire set with diamonds in a high, pronged, 1970's setting...perhaps one day I will have it reset into something easier to wear every day, but not just yet.

everydayisbeautiful said...

Your moonstone does sound beautiful Justine, and links beautifully back to Wilkie Collins!
I wear my wedding ring and engagement ring and no others though my mother wears both her wedding ring and my grandmothers. My grandmother left my mother an Infant Child of Prague statue - she was an very devout Catholic - and on it's finger is an incredible diamond ring which my great grandmother placed on his finger in thanks for her son (my grandfather's) safe return from Dunkirk...

Lilac In May said...

What a gently romantic ring story. I love the thoughtfulness.

Years ago I went to Hatton Garden on the recommendation of a friend, to try to find a replacement for a watch that had once belonged to my grandmother, and had been stolen in a burglary. I entered this dark, dusty cave of a shop run by an elderly gentleman, and selected a watch that was nearly identical to the one I'd lost. I stupidly asked the old man about the previous owner. The old mans deadpan response was, 'she's dead'. My dream of replacing something that could never be replaced died too. When I left the shop I cried, but now, whenever I think it, I smile.

enid said...

emerald as heavy
as a golf course, ruby as dark
as an afterbirth,
diamond as white as sun
on the sea...
~Anne Sexton

Justine Picardie said...

Thank you to everyone for these moving, evocative stories; all of them so redolent of family history, yet also reminders of of how the past lives on, making time as circular as a ring.

Young at Heart said...

oooh .......sounds utterly romantic...... I gave my mum a moonstone ring bought on a trip to Sri Lanka when I was 19, she still wears it now!!

Justine Picardie said...

What a lovely daughter you are!

Karen, Surrey said...

We have my MIL's 40th Wedding anniversary ring which is a Lady Di / Princess Catherine engagement ring lookalike. It's waiting for my daughter who is 15 now and too young to appreciate it. It will probably come out for her 18th. I thought my Eternity ring was going to be tickets to NY but wasn't. Diamonds are better than a trip to NY!

HB said...

Yet again your post resonates with me. I have just blogged about my rings; at the moment they symbolise both love and loss.

I love your comment to Enid about reinvention or evolution. I am plumping for the latter.

Have decided that my rings are staying, though they may get moved around in a jewellery version of musical fingers.

Love, health and happiness, Justine. Helen x

enid said...

can't have 13 comments it's inlucky so I make it 14

Bette said...

Sorry but not a comment on this very interesting article! Can you help me find what you wrote about your visit to the Bronte Parsonage? I loved it and want to share with a friend. The link from your blog goes to Telegraph but I can't find it there. I know you are very busy so no problem if you've no time!

Justine Picardie said...

Bette, do you mean the piece I wrote about visiting the Parsonage with Henrietta Llewellyn Davis? I've written several pieces about going there.

Bette said...

Any of the articles on the Bronte museum but particularly the one about the seance. Sorry for being a distraction.

Kimmy Barnes said...

It is true that rings are to be treasured, and not just because of the value of their price tag, but because they represent something special in our lives. I wish you posted some pictures of your grandmother’s ring. After hearing your story, though, I bet it was beautiful in every way! By the way, the moonstone is really beautiful! It’s nice that you got one for yourself.


@Kimmy Barnes

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