The Unsentimental Heirloom
Hello! I read you all the time and I think you’ve always given great advice. I finally find myself in a situation that I could really use some advice. So here goes…
I was recently at a funeral for my Great Aunt, she was the only daughter of my great grandmother and sister to my Grandpa. I wasn’t all that close to her in any way for a few reasons…one: we moved around a lot as my Dad was in the navy and we were rarely in the same province together; two she didn’t like children at all and never wanted much to do with us till we were in our late teens at least. (When I say “we” I mean all of the grandchildren of my Grandpa..me, my cousins, brothers…all of us) But by then she had spent too much time being either indifferent or mean for us to want much from her. I don’t mean to be cruel in anyway, it’s just the way it was, I was always polite and cordial to her and respectful of her place in our family but when she passed it unfortunately wasn’t all that horrible.
Now on the other hand, I love my Great Uncle, this aunt’s husband, very much…he was always kind and friendly and great to be around…the whole family feels the same. At the funeral, he said that he was happy I was there but that he wasn’t expecting me to come as I live far away, but that since I was there that he had something for me. I thought he just maybe had something little for my kids for Valentines day or something as they usually sent something down for them so I went to see him a few hours after the funeral. He sat down, and very unceremoniously handed me the engagement ring that belonged to my Great Grandmother (my great Aunt’s mother) who I did know and have some vague memories of before she passed away when I was about 8-10ish.
This is all kind of weird for me. I’ve never been given something from anyone’s death, I’ve never been given an heirloom like this at all. I’m kind of surprised, to say the least, that it didn’t go to my mom or that it wasn’t handed down to one of us years ago when my cousins and brothers and I all got married. Actually having said that, my brother was given a ring that I think belonged to this same great Grandmother and he gave it to his wife as their engagement ring. So I have here a ring, that is quite nice, approximately 1-carat diamond in the center and two smaller (.25ct?) diamonds on the side of it on a plain white gold band. It’s lovely and had I known of it (or if my husband had asked anyone at the time if he could propose to me) at the time, I would have loved to have been given it as my engagement ring. As it is….what do I do with it? It seems silly to keep such a pretty ring in a box for however many more years to pass down to my kids. However I have two girls and as much as I think it’s romantic for a guy to ask the parents first if he can propose; to which I could pass along this ring for them to wear, that’s not really the way that story goes anymore. If I had a son, I could keep it for to give to when he finds that special girl…that would be ideal but I don’t have a son.
My mom said to have it sized and wear it on my right hand but I kind of feel silly doing that as it’s obviously an engagement ring. I thought of replacing the diamond in my engagement ring with this diamond (it’s bigger) and putting my diamond in that setting and selling it but I’m not at all happy about the idea of selling it in any form. Plus…I don’t really feel anything when I have it…it’s not like either of these women were giant parts of my life that there is huge sentimental value there, as guilty as I feel having said that “out loud”. I’ve thought of having it made into a necklace but I’m not really a necklace person. Everyone has told me to just wait, keep it safe and see what I want to do with it later.
What do you think?
When my maternal grandmother passed, I ended up with her wedding band. It’s nothing particular crazy-valuable, but it’s absolutely gorgeous. White gold, vintage-style filagree with a row of a few very tiny little diamonds — practically chips, but enough to make it sparkle.
I was already married. My wedding ring was plain, super-skinny white gold band that cost all of $50. My first thought, after getting my grandmother’s ring, was heeeeey, nice upgrade.
But like you, I had a complicated relationship with my grandmother. She wasn’t simply cold, she was awful. I mean, I hate bringing this topic up because the woman has been dead and gone for so many years…but awful. Manipulative. Openly cruel. My mother suffered pretty terribly as a child because of her, and she continued to drive wedges and play favorites with us grandchildren, always using her “money” and “the inheritance” to control and get her way. My older brother took her in and cared for her for years and years — in the end she decided she didn’t like his wife (who also took her in as a newlywed) and disowned him completely. She never liked me, and I figured that out pretty early on, though somehow I managed to stay relatively close to her good graces and not get excluded from the will entirely. (Though collectively we all opted to pool the estate — which wasn’t close to what our grandmother had led everyone to believe it was — and include our mother and disowned brother equally, because frankly? They more than deserved it all.)
So anyway, I ended up with This Woman’s wedding band. Because of my relationship with her, there was no way in hell I felt okay putting it on my left hand, in a place of honor, once I thought about it. Just…no. My husband didn’t like that idea either.
However…in the end, it was just a piece of jewelry, not a cursed symbol of her own unhappy marriage and life. And it was a pretty piece of jewelry, and while my mom didn’t want it for herself, she did admit she’d prefer that it stay “in the family.” Now THAT was a request I took seriously.
I had the ring sized for my right hand. I wear it sometimes, when I feel like it. Sometimes I string it on a necklace with some other silver or white-gold charms and doodahs. Does it look like a wedding band? Yeah, I guess. I think maybe two or three people have even noticed the the thing in all the years I’ve had it, and I’ve simply said, “It was my grandmother’s ring.” That’s more than enough of an explanation. It’s still not my favorite piece of jewelry, because it’s still hers, to some degree.
Perhaps one of my children will want it someday, or not, since she died long before any of them were born. But if they do, I will happily hand it over, leaving the tortured backstory out of it, because they’ll really only remember it as my ring. Not hers. Let the legacy of awful be over. Go make this ring a symbol of whatever in the world you want it to symbolize.
So. That’s my own story. I don’t know if that’s useful at all or not. I’m mostly going to echo what you’ve already been told: Just hold on to it and wait. Perhaps someday you’ll feel like you know what you want to do with it. However, I don’t think your mom’s idea of wearing it on your right hand is a strange one at all: the three-stone style you’re describing got quite a nice marketing makeover a few years back as the perfect “anniversary ring” style, so many people might assume that’s what it is. (Or they’ll simply — and rightly — guess that it’s a family heirloom, if anyone notices at all.) Get it sized for your next anniversary and consider it a gift from your extended family.
If that doesn’t feel right, then hold on to it. Maybe the stone will get knocked out of your own engagement ring and you’ll be happy for have a replacement. Maybe your one of your daughters will fall in love with a noble-yet-struggling young artist who can’t afford an engagement ring, and it can be your gift to them. Or you can get the ring redesigned and reset the stones into something less engagement-y looking to you, or a necklace for one daughter and earrings for the other. But there’s no rush to decide. You can get the ring resized and then still change your mind about wearing it personally and put it back in the box for a still yet-to-be-determined purpose.
I can say “it’s just a ring” but I understand that it can take time before it truly becomes “just a ring” to you, instead of an extension of your great-aunt, your odd relationship with her and your odd inheritance of this supposedly super-meaningful THING. It’s understandable that those feelings of oddness will be there every time you look at this otherwise beautiful piece of jewelry that you THINK you should have some great cosmic sentimentality for…but don’t. It’s okay that you don’t.
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