I was clear upfront with my firm rules for any engagement ring I would wear. So when he asked for guidance on the design, I carefully searched for unique options that fit both our requirements. And yet, it still never felt right. I’d never wanted an engagement ring, and the shopping process just felt odd and uncomfortable. The final straw came when I went into a shop to a) look into an engagement ring for him and b) try on a few non-solitaire rings for myself, to see how they looked. Amongst all the pretty, I found a three-stone, princess cut, bezel-set, modern ring that I could envision with our own non-mined gems. I fell a little bit in love and asked about the price.
As I tried to recover somewhat from my shock (but that’s a new car! Or a year of grad school at UCLA! Or a year’s worth of travel in South America!), I clarified that I only was interested in the setting, not the stones.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve all clearly lost our marbles if we think it’s remotely appropriate to pay $2,500 for a small hunk of metal. I felt dirty and had to keep myself from running out of the store, screaming and waving my hands in horror. At that moment, I was DONE with ring shopping and wanted no further part in the beast that is modern American weddings.
I went to visit my mother that afternoon, ill with disgust about my first full-fledged WIC encounter, full of righteous indignation, convinced I could no longer stomach ring shopping, even if it was important to J. At which point, my mother brought out an old heirloom ring she had been planning to give me on my future 30th birthday, a ring I’ve always loved, and asked if it would work for us instead. It was yellow gold, with a yellow topaz center and diamonds surrounding the topaz. It was beautiful, not my “style” at all, and perfect all the same, particularly because she wanted us to adapt it as we wanted so that we would use and love the ring she no longer wore. The idea of a ring that connected me to my past and also to our present values was the first thing about selecting a ring that finally just felt right.
So we found an amazing jeweler who specializes in cutting synthetic gems* who J worked with on a synthetic sapphire center stone. He then worked with a local jeweler to change out the yellow gold for a re-designed white gold band. And the resulting ring is more beautiful, less practical, more blingy, and yet more meaningful than I ever could have imagined.
I’m still getting used to wearing it. On the surface, it seems so traditionally flashy and sparkly, even if we know that it meets all our cost and environmental requirements. I’m a simple-over-sparkle girl, and I’m not entirely comfortable with the assumptions about status, cost, or traditional engagements that get imputed with this ring. And I’m certainly not comfortable when people grab my hand to see it and exclaim over the engagement ring (really – um, we’re excited over the engagement, not the ring, right?). It’s also not a ring I would feel comfortable wearing on a trip through South America, or even to South Los Angeles, despite the fact that its street value falls far short of what the sparkle implies. I sometimes have to sit back and remind myself that it has every element of the bad-ass independent me-ness that I was looking for in a ring, others’ assumptions be darned. Instead of defending my ring to outsiders, as many indie-ring brides before me have had to do, I find myself immediately indie-fying the ring by describing the benefits of synthetic sapphires, trying to place myself comfortably back on the environmentalist feminist side of the ring debate.
But I’m slowing getting used to ignoring the outside voices and just loving everything about the ring. Because it’s ours, I love it, and I couldn’t have dreamt of anything more perfect for us.
*please ignore his early-2000s website. Michael E is a stonecutting genius (synthetic and standard gems) who values intrinsic beauty over judging us for wanting not-a-diamond. And we faced a LOT of judgment along the way.