Elisabeth: For Sentimental, Complicated Reasons

Remember the ring saga, how I designed a ring made of sand and then it wasn’t waterproof and then I lost it in Queens, and then I got a stand-in ring that was the Pleiades constellation depicting a starry summer night (I actually didn’t tell you that part), and the moral of the story was that a Ring wasn’t really important to me? Yup, I remember that too.

Weren’t those the uncomplicated days.

About a month ago I asked both of my parents, who are divorced, about family heirlooms. I had some yet unformed notion that I might like to wear some sort of family something when K and I got married. My family does not tend towards jewels, but I just wanted to check, in case there was something in a safety deposit box that might want to come full circle. Just in case. Both of them thought about it and said they’d check, and then I went back to watching Nashville.

A few weeks later, my mom handed me a wrapped present, and when I saw what was in it, we both started crying. Nestled in the box was a diamond ring, over a hundred years old. My mom had worn this ring when she was married to my father. Family lore is murky, but either this ring belonged to my paternal great-grandmother or perhaps a great-aunt, both much beloved women. A great-cousin of mine couldn’t say Grandmother when he was a baby, so he called my great-grandmother GoGo instead, and the name stuck, and apparently GoGo had great taste, because this ring, you guys. I can’t stop looking at it. It’s like handsome crinkly-eyed Patrick Dempsey waiting in Tiffany’s late one night to surprise Reese Witherspoon with her heart’s desire (don’t even pretend you haven’t seen Sweet Home Alabama; even though they aren’t meant to be together, that scene alone probably doubled DeBeers’ stock that quarter). The ring is a beautiful, sentimental, diamond and sapphire treasure.

And I want to wear this ring, oh my gosh, I want to wear it so badly. But the complications, they pile up like wedding decorations on a Pinterest page.

For starters, I just wrote a scant few months ago that I feel uncomfortable slipping on such a visible heteronormative tradition, and that hasn’t changed. Our wedding and our marriage won’t be the same as a straight one. Will the ring feel like pretending?

And what about the fact that the last time this ring was worn, the relationship ended in divorce? I love both my parents, but I don’t want to replicate their marriage. Is that weird, to slip on the ghosts of relationships past? I realize this logic is a little unfounded, since one of the biggest reasons I feel drawn to the ring is the idea being part of a line of women in my family who have worn it, and of course not all family history is happy. Maybe a sage cleaning ritual would help?

And what happens if I lose it? Can I be trusted with something that is both deeply sentimental and valuable? I row on the Harlem River with a master’s crew team several nights a week. What happens if that stunner flies off during a Power Ten? This ring is literally irreplaceable; why would I want to give myself that kind of responsibility?

Most problematic of all, though, is the fact that this ring has nothing to do with K, and it feels a bit strange to wear something celebrating this next step that doesn’t symbolize us. My friend sympathetically suggested I turn the ring into something new and give it to K instead. She said, “It’s so romantic, sort of like proof that this is super permanent and you just sealed it with something extraordinary from your family’s history.”

The problem with that plan is that K will never wear a jewel. Wearing a wedding band is going to be a novel experience for her. She’s allergic to most metals, for one thing, but more importantly, her gender expression does not include GoGo’s ring, although she lived in New Orleans for a long time and looks very fetching in glitter and fake eyelashes, sort of like Your Carhartt Boyfriend in drag. The other night she did mention she liked Jay Gatsby’s tie tack, but even if I made the ring into cuff links (sob), she’d politely request a sensible pair of steel and concrete forged ones instead.

She also is deeply uncomfortable with wealth, and this ring sure looks like wealth. I appreciate this very much about her, until I want to order takeout many nights in a row. She grew up in a self-identified hippie family, where wealth was a sign of systems of oppression, and systems of oppression are bad, and that how you spend your money is a manifestation of your values. My family, while not rich, takes great pride in tracing back to our 1600’s arrival in New York State. Those are some deep WASP roots.

This has inspired some hard conversations (up till now, we hadn’t talked much about rings, except to speculate how much our wedding bands could resemble tree bark before they started feeling scratchy). She wonders why it’s important to me to wear something that seems to her like an unnecessary luxury, and I want her to understand and support how deeply I am connected to my family.

I think she’d be fine with me wearing the ring as long as we agreed it was not about us, but about my connection to my family. The ring has everything to do with them, and I am proud of them, and I would love to wear such a sentimental and beautiful piece of jewelry, but it still doesn’t feel quite right. I’m not sure where we’ll end up, but I sometimes still take it out of the box and turn it around in the light, imagining my great-grandmother standing in the airy kitchen of the house on the hill, doing the same thing.

Photo: Calin + Bisous

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  • Sara

    As a former rower myself, if you can manage to not get the worlds worst blisters while rowing with jewelry, go for it! If it’s the right size and you’re working hard, that ring’s only going to dig out a nice rut in the handle. Of course, I take off all jewelry (except small earrings) when rowing (or boxing or swinging my kettlebells around) because oh my god I can’t handle the wear and tear on my hands, the whap as a necklace swings back against my collarbone or anything like that.

    Overall, I am hearing you say “I want to wear this.” Therefore, perhaps, you should wear it. Maybe not as a wedding/engagment ring. Maybe as a “this is an occasion on which I’d like a sparkly accessory” ring. I ordered a pretty ring I liked and people were up in arms “I thought you already had a ring!!!” I kept finding that I had to explain, “I am ordering A ring. It is not THE ring. I have more than one finger!”

    It can be A ring. It does not have to be THE ring. Get your beauty the tie tack or cufflinks she’d love. This can be just an accessory you love (but maybe don’t wear during crew practice).

    • One More Sara

      “Overall I am hearing you say ‘I want to wear this.’ Therefore, perhaps, you should wear it.”

      SPOT ON what I wanted to say. so, ditto.

      • Jessica B

        My advice exactly.

        • Anon for the Heck of it

          Yes! This is an awesome opportunity to tell the WIC to shove it. A diamond solitaire doesn’t HAVE to be an engagement ring. It can stand on its own as a symbol of the amazing women who have worn it in the past and a beautiful piece of artwork.

          As far as K’s issue with wealth. That is something else entirely. Is she completely uncomfortable with you wearing it at all? Or just against wearing it every day as a symbol of your love and commitment?

          • Jo

            Yes to this thread. This is what I was thinking.

            It doesn’t sound like this ring would ever symbolize your marriage and commitment to K. Rather, the ring symbolizes your connection to your family and its history. For that reason, it seems you’d be more comfortable separating it from marriage-related traditions. Maybe this can be a gift from your mother in honor of your wedding. If you see it that way, it can be (a) something you wear at your wedding (if K is comfortable with that), and (b) something you wear when you have the occasion to.

          • marbella

            Exactly. Right hand ring? Worn on special occasions only? I only wear my engagement ring for special occasions as it is a large (lab) diamond and I am a clumsy and practical girl. My wedding band is plain and perfect for every day wear.


      I was just thinking this- a fancy right-hand cocktail ring for sparkly occasions, including your wedding day? I don’t know if you’re doing the whole “something old, something new…” thing, but daaaamn this sounds like a great something old.

      And that last line about your great-grandmother- that alone sounds like a reason to at least keep it around to put on from time to time. And to pass on later if the time comes.

      • alyssa

        And didn’t she say sapphire? Then it’s blue, too!

    • B (the other one)

      What what! Power 10! I would hope you would know better than to row with jewelry on!

      The thought I kept thinking while I read this piece was “you don’t want to wear something so complicated, why did you ask?” a lot of the reasons you identified as problems seem inherit to any jewelry itsel, practicality, wealth, symbolism, connection to partner. Whether your parents gave you a ring or cuff links these issues would have arisen.

      Why don’t you wear it on your wedding day as a nod to your history and family who you are joining to your partner, and than put it back in the safety deposit box?

      • B (the other one)

        If you do wear it, just insure it to the hilt!

      • Laura

        Ditto to the power ten!

    • Moe

      I must be the most shallow person on the planet. I just don’t attach that much meaning and symbolism to objects. Not everything you wear on your wedding day must mean something. The ring (by the way it sounds beyond gorgeous)is a beautiful thing. To echo what others have said, wear it because you love it.

    • Bethany

      I think a few people have said it before already, but my advice — wear it, but maybe not on that specific finger. Wear it when you want to feel close to your GoGo (amazing nick name, btw). And as for the glitz of it all, it’s “wealthy looking” maybe, but it’s inherited which means that it’s not about the gems and the metals, it’s about the sentiment and the connective energy that exists when you wear it. I think there’s something amazingly powerful about wearing something that someone else wore everyday of their life for a certain time. I totally think their “ju ju” is in there — how’s that for a hippie justification?

      My engagement ring is a family heirloom on my fiance’s side. We decided to have reset to fit my/our style, and as a way to take something deeply sentimental and make it ours. I have to say that even now that it’s been reset, I do feel a connection to a woman I never had the pleasure to meet, but am forever bound to through her progeny.

      And as for the fear of losing it — well, that won’t change. Which is why I go back to my first point, wear it when you want to wear it, when it feels like an important, special day and you need some GoGo in your life.

      And then go out and get some cool cufflinks for K and the rings or tattoos or whatever it is that you guys want to symbolize your love.

  • SamanthaNichole

    Goodness sakes don’t dismantle the family heirloom!

    • Ari

      This is totally a cultural (and personal!) thing. In some families/cultural settings, the heirloom is the jewel itself, and in some it’s the setting. This is sort of a feel-it-out-with-those-involved thing, I think.

      I for sure agree that if the ring is lovely and she likes it, and if her partner wouldn’t want the resulting reset piece, there’s no good reason to dismantle it. But for many people, resetting the stones as something else wouldn’t compromise the heirloominess of the thing.

      (My mother had one of her rings and one of my grandmother’s reset as pendants for me shortly before she died, under the theory that A. our fingers were really different sizes, B. our taste in settings was very different, and C. I wasn’t really a ring person anyway. So I don’t have rings that my mother and grandmother wore, but I do two necklaces that I wear, that I love, and that make me feel deeply connected to my family history. And since I have sons, it’s entirely possible that we will someday reset the stones for them. In my family, this is what passing down heirloom jewelry looks like. Other families are different.)

    • Miriam

      Yeah, ordinarily I would agree, but sometimes it can be meaningful to the person receiving the heirloom to physically change its appearance, to communicate that the recipient and their identity are part of the family too. My fiance’s family is Episcopalian, and I am Jewish. His mom had a beautiful family heirloom – a small diamond-studded silver cross on a necklace – that traditionally was handed down to the sons to give to their brides. Without even being asked, she suggested that we rework it into a chai (Hebrew word for life) since I would not be very comfortable wearing a cross. We did, and now I am wearing a beautiful family heirloom that simultaneously makes me feel like I am a part of the family and that my culture is being respected.

      That being said, it doesn’t at all sound worth it in this case, since the fiancé doesn’t sound so into it in whatever form. Agree with everyone who is saying to wear it because you love it.

  • MTM

    I bought myself a sparkly sapphire ring to wear on my wedding day as my something blue — perhaps that’s a way to incorporate the ring without the expectation that it’s THE ring or something you would have to wear all the time?

    • Perhaps have it sewn into your wedding day attire so both of you know it is there but it isn’t seen? Or if you’re having a bouquet, tie the ring to the stems with some fabulous ribbon or lace scraps? Worn on a pretty chain as a necklace? As a “right hand ring” worn for special occasions/events/fabulous evenings out on the town all loved up?

      • meg

        Oh for goodness sakes, WEAR a beautiful family heirloom. Don’t sew it into a dress where you can’t see it. I mean, wear it as a symbol or not, but WEAR it.

  • KW

    I hope you are able to find a way and a time that feels right to wear the ring and treasure your family connection, even if it isn’t for the wedding itself.

    When I was a little girl, my mom had a small simple diamond ring which was my great-grandmother’s engagement ring. My grandmother had given it to my mom on the condition that it eventually go to me, because I was the first girl in the family to be named after my great-grandmother.

    I became overweight in my teens, and morbidly obese as an adult. I never thought I’d actually be able to wear the ring (it’s tiny). I figured I would get the ring when my mom died and I wasn’t (and still am not) in any hurry for that to happen. In my 30’s though, I started losing weight. Mom told me that when I lost enough weight that the ring would fit, she would give it to me. A few years later, it did, and on a day that I modeled this crazy plaid ballgown that my sister owns and I always wanted to wear, she gave me the ring. I accepted it, though I wasn’t emotionally ready to take it because of the reminder that mom won’t always be here.

    Last year, when my husband and I started talking about getting married, there was no official proposal and no engagement ring. I thought about using Grandma’s ring as my wedding ring, but like you I decided against it. We instead picked out rings together that are engraved with something meaningful to us, and my heirloom ring will be worn on special occasions on my right hand as I had before. I actually ended up not wearing it for the wedding but only because we got married at a state park and went hiking after a picnic lunch, so I didn’t want to risk damaging or losing it.

  • Katie*

    If Prince William can give Kate his mom’s engagement ring (with all the awful baggage that carries) I think it is reasonable to wear your family’s ring as a connection to your relatives (as opposed to as a connection with K). (not that you want the heteronormative slant of the royal family!) I have a few friends with deceased mothers who wear their rings. My own mom wore her mom’s high school class ring when she died. It sounds like you have a terrific gift!

    • Elisabeth

      Ha! I LOVE this idea that the unflappable Kate Middleton and I have something in common. Great point, Katie*!

      • meg

        I love this too. I mean EXACTLY. If one can move past the Diana and Charles bagage. Stiff upper lip and all that.

    • I think it’s sweet that Wills gave Kate his mother’s ring! (Hell, I’d take it!) My grampa gave my gramma a dress ring that had 4 little diamonds in it. For years gramma said that all 4 of us granddaughters would get one of those diamonds. Time came and went and all of my cousins had theirs, I didn’t have mine.

      My bridal shower rolls around and lo and behold, there in the pile of gifts is a package from gramma. Inside is the most delicate little diamond set as a pendant on a gold chain. My mom loses it, I start to lose it. Everyone in the room starts to lose it when the significance behind it is explained. (My grampa died years before and this was my something old.) We took the chain off and attached the little diamond pendant to my wedding necklace. Last year for our 5th wedding anniversary, DH and I exchanged gifts. I got a new gold chain for my little wedding diamond from gramma, he got a spiffy new jersey for our local rugby team. (We got what we wanted and we were both happy!) I don’t wear my little diamond much as its set in yellow gold and I like white, but when I do wear it it is meaningful.

    • Class of 1980

      You know, William got so much flak in the press for giving Kate that ring because his parent’s marriage ended. But he lost his mother for goodness sake, and when he looks at that ring she always wore, he remembers her; not the divorce.

      • Megan-E

        And it’s giving the ring a “second chance,” if such a thing makes sense, and honoring life as it is. I have considered asking my mom for the diamond from her engagement ring (my parents are divorced), which she long ago had taken out of the ring and made into an earring stud, to possibly use in an engagement or wedding ring for myself. Yes, her first marriage did not last, but it was a symbol of love from my dad to my mom, and I could create new meaning with it.

  • One More Sara

    I have a friend whose parents’ marriage also ended badly, but her mom also gave my friend her old engagement ring. It was kind of like a reminder that it wasn’t always awful and that her parents did, at one point, love each other.

    So I don’t think this ring, loaded with *recent* less-than-pleasant memories, is an appropriate engagement ring. But it could be a reminder of your close ties with your family and also a reminder that there were, at some point in time, happy times between your parents (I imagine the day you were born would probably be pretty high on that list ;) )


      “It was kind of like a reminder that it wasn’t always awful and that her parents did, at one point, love each other.”

      I just love this thought.

    • The Family Jules

      When I told my mom that my partner and I are planning a future together she gave me her old engagement ring, and my parent’s wedding bands and told me I can do what I want with it when the time comes. My partner wondered if using my divorced parents’ wedding rings would bring some bad vibes into our future, but I told him that we can take the rings and turn them into something else. I like the idea of taking the family jewelry (she also gave me some of my grandfather’s wedding rings from one of his marriages) and turning it into a positive representation of the future.

  • Maria

    Just wear the ring!!

    • fermi

      I second this comment. My ring is my fiance’s sister n laws first ring (she upgraded already and the ring was literally on the floor when my fiance’s brother saw it and asked if he would want to have it to give to me! lol) and I am now the proud owner of a pretty diamond. I am TERRIFIED that I am going to lose it. I mean, I will take it off and night put it in the exact same place, I will not wear it to the pool, or in the shower…I feel that way because I feel that it wasn’t “my ring” and I would die if I lost it. But I still wear it daily and am proud, because, really they gave it to us out of love. Wear the ring…regardless of how your parent’s marriage ended or because you’re scared that you’ll lose it. Like previous commenters, sounds like you want to wear the RING!

      • KB

        I have an heirloom engagement ring and the only time I take it off is when I go to bed at night and I always put it in the EXACT SAME PLACE and NEVER NEVER NEVER take it off during the day – not to wash my hands, not when I’m mixing dough, not when I’m lifting weights. I don’t care if it’ll mess up the metal or make it less shiny, there is no way that I will be responsible for losing this beautiful, meaningful piece. And, actually, once you get into the rhythm of “protecting” it, it becomes second nature to wear it, so you’re less frightened about having something so precious on your person.

  • MirandaVanZ

    You could always wear it on your right hand as part of your wedding outfit. I have a ring my grandmother gave me that has a great big topaz on it. It’s not suitable for everyday wear but I wear it to most fancy events and that will include my wedding day.

  • RF

    From a few days after my wedding on, I have been wearing my wedding ring on the right hand (I live in a country where that is the tradition) and one of my grandmother’s rings on the left hand. The wedding ring is about my marriage – my grandmother’s ring had nothing to do with my marriage and everything to do with me and my grandma. Neither is a “flashy” ring, though.

    I take my rings off every time I shower or exercise, by the way.

  • I would echo the several other suggestions that you wear the ring on your right hand– if it doesn’t already fit, you could get it resized for your right ring finger, if you want! My wife has a ring from her grandmother that she wears on her right hand while wearing her wedding band on her left hand. It sounds like you want to wear it, so you totally should wear it– but if you don’t feel totally comfortable wearing it as an engagement ring on your left ring finger because of the various concerns you voiced, then you DO have nine other fingers (hopefully, haha!) :)

  • Manya

    Yup. Sounds like a perfect Right Hand Ring to me, which is about your connection to generations of women in your family. I have a ring I inherited from my Grandmother that makes me feel like that. I love wearing it. It’s too fancy to wear every day, but I drag that sucker out anytime it’s even approaching appropriate.

  • Justanotherblue

    If you want to wear it, wear it. Wear it as a symbol of the family that you love and of the sentiment it held for GoGo. Wear it because its lovely and you obviously like it . If you’re worried that you’ll harm it while excercising, take it off. People do it all the time. If you don’t want it, give it back to your mother so it can be passed on to someone else in the family. Don’t dismantle a beautiful heirloom because you’re over thinking what it has to mean. Seriously, I get that you’re torn, but when did being an intelligent woman mean that we constantly have to rip ourselves to shreds about the symbolism and potential feminist implications of every. Little. Thing? Sometimes a ring is just a pretty piece of jewelry, given in love with kindness behind the gesture. And I’m sorry, but your partner being “uncomfortable with wealth” is irrelivent to your wearing of a family heirloom. If she is uncomfortable wearing it herself, that’s one thing, but it’s not as though you insisted upon making her pay thousands for it. My partner is uncomfortable with wearing jewelry, but he would never presume to tell me that I can’t.

    • KB

      Exactly – you’re not wearing it to be flashy, and I bet my bottom dollar that people who met you while you were wearing it wouldn’t think you were wealth-obsessed or would quickly be disabused of that notion once they had a conversation with you :-) I wear my heirloom ring because it’s meaningful, not because it costs one bazillion dollars or whatever. And I would hope that at least the women I’m friends with liked their own rings because of the meaning behind them and not because their partner spent X amount of money on it.

    • Elisabeth

      Oh, I’ll wear the ring if I decide that it feels like the right decision, and I wouldn’t ever dismantle it to give it to K, because she wouldn’t want it — which I think I should have been more clear about in the piece! The ring has been re-set at least once, so I don’t feel so worried about a potential new setting at some point. But I don’t feel that K’s opinion of it is irrelevant — our families of origin and their differing values have been the root cause of some of the most difficult conversations we’ve had. The other day at a pre-marital counseling session our priest said to us that not only will the conversations remain hard, we should get used to compromises that neither of us may be satisfied with. I actually liked hearing this put so matter-of-factly — neither of us is going to roll over but we do have to figure out how to support each other.

  • Martha

    Wear it for sure!! I am a firm believer that your marriage is what you and your partner make it (and though it might take some time to figure out exactly what that is, it never needs to be what it was for someone else).

    If you love the ring, wear it with a gusto! From the way you’ve described K throughout your posts, I can’t imagine she will mind. And there is no reason you have to wear it every day, much like others have suggested.

    • Dusty

      Exactly! I only wear my engagement ring on special occasions. This is how jewellery used to be worn. I love only wearing it for a purpose as it means I think mindfully about what the ring means to me each time and it makes me swoon all over again.
      Wear it with love and have your own marriage.

  • Erin

    When I was 16, my mother gave me the family ring. It had been my great-great-great (yeah!) grandmother’s ring, and is a simple gold band that has been worn thin by the many women who have born it. It is always passed down to the eldest daughter (who, with luck, have all had a daughter of their own, I’m not sure how and when that line will break). My mother wore it as her wedding ring before she and my father had enough money to purchase their own. My grandmother wore it as her wedding ring for both her first (truly awful) marriage and her second (truly amazing) marriage to my grandfather. Her mother kept that ring as the only thing of value when they had to sell off all their posessions in the Great Depression, and HER mother took it with her on the boat to Ellis Island as the only thing of value she could claim. (And her mother, before that, waved goodbye to the ring, and her daughter, from some sunny shore in Ireland.)

    Right now it doesn’t even fit me (I broke several fingers a few years ago and now it’s hard to get things over the knuckles. And it’s too big for my pinky fingers), but I’ll be tying it to my bouquet on my wedding day and then it will return safely to my jewelry box, waiting for my daughter to come of age.

    Don’t change it, please, and don’t wear it as a wedding ring if you don’t want to, because it doesn’t have to be that. It’s a link to your family and the women who have come before you, and that is an awesome and powerful thing.

    • SamanthaNichole

      That is so incredible.

    • Abby Mae

      Great great great?? Wow!

      That’s so awesome that you get an incredible family ring to pass on to your daughter. =)

  • Kristen

    Sometimes I think its helpful to be reminded we don’t need to over think every decision. Or at least, I need this reminder a lot. It sounds like you love the ring, your parents want you to have the ring and you want to wear it. So wear it and be happy.

  • oh, thank you for “your carhartt boyfriend.”

    also, this sounds like something my baby would say about me:
    “She also is deeply uncomfortable with wealth, and this ring sure looks like wealth. I appreciate this very much about her, until I want to order takeout many nights in a row.” ha. ahem.

    on a more related note, as far as “unnecessary luxury” goes, i think this is another argument for what so many people have said: this can be your ring about your family of origin, it doesn’t have to be your and k’s engagement ring. because insofar as people are liable to assume she got/bought/chose it for you, it is important that both you and k are comfortable with your engagement ring (after all, she is implicated in it). on the other hand, she doesn’t have to be totally comfortable with all of your accessory choices in general =) although, from one tightwad to another, it would ease *my* mind a bit to differentiate between bought luxury and inherited luxury.

    • Elisabeth

      K just read your comment and said, “oh, I like that girl” because you are tightwad-identified. Thumbs up for the differentiation — I really like thinking of it that way.

  • Rachel

    When I was home last month, I found my mom’s wedding ring, which I thought I had lost. (Awful, I know. She gave it to me sort of unofficially and without much fanfare when I was 16. I chose not to think about the horrifying possibility that I actually LOST it. My family is practically hoarders, so I figured it would turn up.) I was delighted to find it and then was like, Well, what do I DO with it? The marriage didn’t last, I had an amazing engagement ring already…what to do? Meanwhile, I was scanning all these old photos of my family, and scanned my grandma’s entire wedding album and photos from my parents’ wedding. I LOVE the photos of my grandma’s wedding because she was the quintessential 1960s bride but…my grandparents got divorced. And again, I was like, “Why am I feeling all mushy about these things? Why am I looking for meaningful wedding symbols in weddings that were not lifelong commitments?” I’d love to have a family wedding photo display at our wedding but I kept feeling like that was sort of…morbid or something. But all I can say is that wedding planning has just awakened this huge need to think about where I come from as I consider where I’m going. It’s made me curious about my family and my own history (and Eric’s) and strangely proud of it in way that’s very new to me.

    So even though an heirloom piece of wedding jewelry CAN be about the love that it represents…there’s more to it than that. It’s about the people and the bond it represents. You hit on that when you said that the ring had been handed down to women in your family. That’s a BIG DAMN DEAL. That’s cool and special and it’s a piece of your history. I sounds like this ring is less about the romantic relationships it was tied to, and more about the women who wore it. And I feel like even though neither my mom’s nor my grandma’s marriages lasted, there’s still something that (for me anyway) feels like their weddings were big days in their lives and I feel connected to them as women. To be honest, I haven’t quite worked this out myself yet, but I totally get where you’re coming from and I get why your instinct is to want to wear the ring. I don’t think you’re wrong.

    Sooo…I’m with everyone above who says you should wear it on your right hand as a way to honor your family of origin, while your left-hand ring will honor the family you are creating. And actually, this post has made me want to get my mom’s ring sized so I can do the same thing. <3

    • Anne

      I think you’re really on to something in terms of the ring being connected to the women who wore it. Wearing a ring that symbolizes the women in your family who you respect and admire, I think, can also have meaning for your own relationship. In honoring the women who supported the families that resulted from their marriages, even if the marriages themselves didn’t last, you’re making a similar commitment to your new family.

      • Cate

        Ditto on this. My mom had given me her one and only engagement ring (3 marriages, 1 engagement ring), that was actually from her first husband – not my father. My boyfriend and I had planned on resetting it/cleaning it for our future engagement, as it was nearly an antique by the time I received it; unfortunately, someone broke into our apartment last year and STOLE IT. Let’s just say, I was surprisingly calm while bf actually cried (heartbreaking, really).

        But anyway…I never really questioned wearing the ring. Although the marriage and promise it represented was broken and did not last, I was fond of the ring because it was my mother’s, and it represented a piece of her and her life; it made me feel closer to her to have it, and I looked forward to wearing it with pride. Your family ring may also represent the same – although that marriage did not last, it is a part of the women who wore it and cherished it before you.

        Can’t really go wrong with that, no matter what hand/finger you choose to wear it on!

    • Martha

      Our wedding was 2 weeks ago and we displayed our parents and grandparents wedding photos at our gift table. Though our grandparents marriages didn’t last, that wasn’t the point. Displaying the photos was just a fun way to look at bridal fashion throughout the years, reminisce about passed family members, and marvel at how much we both look like our grandparents. None of our guests remarked on the fact that two of the weddings displayed ended.

      Though the wedding is the start of your marriage, it’s just the wedding. So the pictures were just that, pictures from other weddings, not pictures of their marriages.

  • The ring sounds lovely! I love hearing about links to folks’ pasts and families in such a way – it’s very powerful and moving! The last sentence of your post made me smile.

  • Jo

    I think one of the hardest parts about planning a wedding is dealing with the idea that so many things are symbols. So you develop ideas about what you want those symbols to represent — are you being “true to yourself”, are you fairly representing your values and those of your partner, will your choices be things you’ll be proud to tell your children about? That’s a lot of weight.

    Many of us didn’t put much thought into these things until faced with them head-on, so sometimes we don’t get it totally right at first (also, maybe there is no “right”). Aside from the actual “do I wear this ring and how” discussion, this piece really hits home on the idea that sometimes you think you know FOR SURE how you feel about something, but maybe you actually don’t.

  • Kara E

    I think she’d be fine with me wearing the ring as long as we agreed it was not about us, but about my connection to my family. The ring has everything to do with them, and I am proud of them, and I would love to wear such a sentimental and beautiful piece of jewelry, but it still doesn’t feel quite right. I’m not sure where we’ll end up, but I sometimes still take it out of the box and turn it around in the light, imagining my great-grandmother standing in the airy kitchen of the house on the hill, doing the same thing.

    This tells me a couple of things: (1) complications be damned, you really want to wear the ring, and (2) you are a product of your family. I think you and K need to have this be part of the conversation.

    Get it insured and properly sized and you should be fine. Also, don’t wear the ring to row, especially if it’s gold! It would be horrible for it.

  • marie

    A wedding ring is, indeed, a deeply sentimental and symbolic thing, but like any other detail of a wedding (for the ring is, in truth, a detail!), it needn’t needed encompass and define your marriage! I don’t mean to dismiss your thoughtful deliberations, but it seems so plain that you are drawn to the ring….so stop quibbling, and put it on!

    The ring is a pretty thing to remind your of your connection to K and others; the real gem is K herself: she is entrusting you with her heart, which is infinitely more valuable than a ring, and harder to lose while rowing!

  • Hintzy

    What Rachel said… hehehe

    Yeah I would definitely think it sounds like the ring is more appropriate as a right hand ring – for all the reasons that you mention it as being uncomfortable as an ‘engagement’ ring.

    As for the possible bad histories tainting it, it depends on how you look at it, and the heirloom effect is really a powerful antidote. For my 21st birthday my mom had the diamond from the engagement ring that my dad had given her re-mounted as a necklace. It’s one of my favorite pieces of formal jewelry. Their marriage ended pretty horribly and still more than 10 years later they can’t really have a cordial conversation. But without that marriage, I and my brother wouldn’t exist. So in spite of all of the horrible things that diamond can represent, it also represents a union that created some (I like to think at least) good in this world. It sounds like the ring in question for you is much more artistically special and shouldn’t be taken apart the way my mom’s simple solitaire was… but I hope the idea seems similar.

    For rowing… my solution (for camping and ocean swimming) is a $20 gold fill ring that I bought in the same size as my engagement ring and I wear it as a stand in when needed.

    And the carhartt boyfriend post just made my day…

  • Cat

    I agree with many of the previous comments: wear it, just not as a wedding ring. I tried to get as much family through jewelry as possible; I wore a gold necklace, turquoise earrings, and cream hat of my maternal grandmother’s, a pearl bracelet (which my sis wore at her wedding) and dress of my paternal grandmother’s, and a lovely turquoise bracelet my granddaddy had given me in high school. My hubby wore cuff links that had been his grandfather’s, and my engagement ring, which I wore on my right hand, belonged to one of his great-uncles, who MAY have been disappeared by the mob in 60s. None of these I wear on a daily basis (except the ring, but that’s on a necklace since I’m a carpenter), but it was a way to feel connected to the past. Also, since only my granddaddy was still alive to see the wedding, it was a way to feel like they were all there, at least in spirit.

  • Kiki D

    Re: a cleansing ceremony.

    The diamond in my engagement ring is from my paternal grandmother’s engagement ring. There are still a lot of really awful emotions attached to the way she left my grandpa, and my fiance and I decided that while we did want the family connection, we’d feel more comfortable having that negative energy washed away.

    Sea salt is a very good way to cleanse negative energy, so we buried the ring in a little box of sea salt and placed it on a windowsill where it would get a few hours of light from the full moon (another energy cleanser). It now feels like my ring rather than her ring!

  • I have a graduate degree in gender studies and am prone to over thinking things. I think it’s so important to be critically engaged in the world around us, to have our defenses ready against insidious cultural messages about gender and heteronormativity and commercialism, etc. But I also think that we are inextricably a part of this world, and we can’t ever effectively opt-out of participating, to some extent in the “-isms” of the world, and so we’re constantly navigating to figure out where the line is for us. (Ex. I rarely wear makeup, which is a way of resisting the idea that women must do xyz to be presentable in society, but I also put a not insignificant amount of effort into my outfits each day. I’m keeping my name after getting married, but I’m still having my dad walk me down the aisle.)

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you want to wear this ring because it is shiny and beautiful, that’s an okay reason. All your other reasons, about it being meaningful to be connected to your family, etc., are also awesome and valid, but aren’t even necessary. If the answer to “Does this make me happy?” is yes, then I think that is enough.

    For me, I’ve had all these anxious thoughts over the wedding dress: I wanted non-traditional, but I couldn’t find one that overcame negative body image baggage. And then I tried on a traditional (read: strapless, sweetheart, a-line & white) and I felt really, really great in it. So I bought it. And proceeded to FREAK OUT because it’s traditional, and I don’t want to be a traditional bride and omgwhathaveidone? But you know what? I don’t stop being myself b/c I’m doing something “traditional” and I don’t have to feel guilty for wanting a poofy white dress. So maybe I’m projecting, but I don’t think you have to justify how or when you wear your ring. Maybe you have profound philosophical reasons, or maybe it’s just pretty, but either way you don’t stop being yourself when you put it on.

    As for practical reasons: what if you wore a chain around your neck, so that in the event of rowing or other such activities, you could slip the ring on the chain and keep it safe?

  • Bubbles

    Sometimes, it’s ok for “OMG SPARKLY” to trump all other things.

    • meg


    • Kirsten

      My thoughts exactly… sometimes beauty is reason enough!!!

    • This is my favorite quote ever.

  • Gina

    My perspective is a little different, but I think it’s worth thinking about because it’s easy to take our loved ones for granted when they’re in good health.

    Right before my grandma began to forget everything, she gave my mom 3 diamond rings that my (now-deceased) Nonno had given her over the years. She told my mom to give one to each of us sisters when we got engaged.

    My fiance initially was super-opposed to the idea of taking the ring from my grandma. He wanted to buy me a ring, and have it be “ours.” So he did. But I am keeping my grandma’s ring as a right-hand ring, even though the diamond is humongous and the gold filigree is of a bygone era, and I am wearing it on my wedding day. My grandma is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s and I doubt she will be able to be at my wedding. It is all I will have of her on that day.

    My point is this: This ring will grow in meaning for you over the years. It’s already obvious that it holds a lot of meaning and history for you. Even it doesn’t mean anything in particular to K, and you choose other tokens of your love to symbolize your marriage, it means something to YOU. It reminds you that you and K are not the first, and you will not be the last, in a long history of loves. And that is enough.

  • Lena

    Seconding all the other commenters to wear it as A ring, not THE ring! I own an heirloom diamond and ruby ring that is soo engagement-y, that despite wearing it exclusively on my right hand, it never fails that someone will ask when I’m getting married. I wear it because it’s a beautiful ring that reminds me of my grandparents and my sister (she has a matching one with different non-diamond jewels) and I have no intention of turning it into an engagement ring or otherwise making it about my relationship. A diamond ring, despite what ads tell us, can be all about your relationship to someone other than your spouse. I just wouldn’t wear it rowing!

  • Blimunda

    I’ve never heard anyone wearing as an engagement ring something that comes from their side of the family, I don’t know if it is a cultural thing (probably yes, I’m not in the US). My thinking would be: it’s already yours. How can it represent a bond you have with someone that came later into your life?
    That said, a ring is a ring. I have a lovely ring that belonged to my grandmother, that my mum gave me for no other reason but that I liked it. I wear it sometimes (as often as any other piece of jewelry that I own). I do wear rings only on my right hand (all of my rings fit on my ring finger and I am used to the idea that only wedding band+engagement rings go on the left one).
    I’d say, keep the ring, wear it whenever you feel like, just because it’s a lovely and precious piece, and don’t make it into anything else (really, please, don’t). I’m sure you’ll find something more meaningful to represent your relationship, that both of you are comfortable with.

    • Tea time

      I wear (not every day, I’m not hugely into jewellery) a ring that my Nanna left to me as my engagement ring. I did not want my fiancé to buy me an engagement ring, which I made clear to him, for a variety of reasons (Im not into rings that much, it’s too much money on spend on something I don’t really care about, I think of it as a diamond marketing ploy etc). I always thought that I would use this as an engagement ring and chose not to wear it until I was engaged. Perhaps I’m different though. It doesn’t bother me that people don’t see this ring as representing a ‘bond’ between my fiancé and I. For me a ring could never represent that anyway. ( I will wear a wedding ring, but he won’t.) Plus it is a beautiful dark blue sapphire. You don’t see them much these days!

      We both copped a bit of flack over our engagements – me because most people thought I was crazy for not wanting and getting a diamond engagement ring and he was accused of being cheap! Wait till people realise he isn’t going to wear a wedding band. I got told the symbolism is important at weddings by one friend. Well yeah, maybe to them, but I only care about my own view of symbolism for my own wedding ceremony!

  • Ammaring

    Wear the ring indeed! It sounds beautiful. But I’ll stick up for those in the crowd who did change a family heirloom, if only to make myself feel a little better.

    My pre-husband proposed with a ring that belonged to his great grandmother that was revealed after a great-aunt passed away. It was the perfect choice for me, as I was incredibly touched that his family was so willing to share their heirloom with me. It was a beautiful solitaire diamond but mounted on a very plain band that was literally twice the size of my finger and not in a style that would have worked with my lifestyle – I want to be able to wear my ring all the time (shower! sleeping! exercising! (except when swinging kettle bells), wearing ski gloves! etc). Knowing the ring came from England, at the turn of the century, we wanted to pay homage to its origins, but still allowing me to not have to treat it with kid gloves and be nervous about wearing it every day. So we designed a super sturdy yet delicate-appearing platinum “filigree” Edwardian mounting for it, and it is stunning. And we certainly did not sacrifice what it was and where it came from in doing so. Best of both worlds.

    • Laura C

      My grandmother took her engagement diamond and her mother’s engagement diamond and had them put onto a ring together, which she wore always.

    • JustAnotherBlue

      I don’t think that it’s always bad to change a family heirloom. I mean, doing so because you actually do plan on wearing it every day and you need it to not be a giant pain in the ass/be destroyed by your lifestyle is smart. And people did that for ages and ages, so it’s not that unusual to find an early Victorian stone set in a Deco setting because someone changed a family piece to keep up with their time, taste or lifestyle.

      Melting it down because you are somehow uncomfortable with what it actually IS, in my opinion, would be pretty sad and wasteful, especially if there are other women in that family lineage who might greatly appreciate it for what it is.

  • Laura C

    As a result of this post, I am now sitting here working in my pajamas and the heirloom ring my grandmother gave me when I turned 16, which I never ever wear.

    • Elisabeth

      We should ALL spend our days in our BEST jewels and pajamas!

  • leah

    This might be a bit repetitive, BUT, you don’t need a reason to wear something pretty. Particularly if this is something pretty and meaningful.

    Nor does your family heirloom ring need to be a symbol of your marriage, it’s already a symbol of your family, and you can wear it out whenever you like. Special occasions or random Tuesdays.

  • ElfPuddle

    Another heirloom story….
    My engagement ring is my mom’s aunt’s wedding ring, given to her by her father-in-law when he found out that his son couldn’t afford one and they were skipping the whole “ring thing”.
    Great-Aunt had no children, so she gave it to my mom before she (Great-Aunt) died.

    The ring (THE ring, A ring, ANY ring) doesn’t have to come from your spouse’s family to symbolize love, marriage, fidelity. It doesn’t carry the power to curse you with it’s last owner’s fate. Symbols mean what we want them to mean.

    And if your mom gave it to you, and you love it, then it’s yours, whatever that means to you or anyone else.

  • Melissa H.

    I too was handed down my great-grandmother’s engagement ring about 10 years ago (before I event met my now-fiancé!)… As soon as I laid my eyes on it, I KNEW that this had to be my engagement ring. It is absolutely perfect, and (coincidence?) only fits on my left ring finger. Needless to say, whenever Y and I started talking about getting married, I told him that this was to be my engagement ring. But I didn’t have all the “complications” that you seem to be having… my parents, grandparents and my great-grandparents before them all stayed together. And I never felt the “burden” of wearing an irreplaceable ring. I just keep on looking at it every day thinking about how awesome it is that this little piece of jewelry has been handed down for generations and that I am so so lucky to be able to wear it.

    As for your particular situation… As many of the readers have pointed out, it sounds to me as you really DO want to wear the ring. And as many people have suggested, if you’re not comfortable wearing it as an engagement ring, why not have it be a nice little sparkly piece of jewelry that you wear for special occasions?

    Trust me, you won’t regret it. :)

    (I apologize for the quality of my grammar… English isn’t my first language… :) )

    • Cleo

      If you hadn’t given the disclaimer at the end, I wouldn’t have known English wasn’t your first language!

  • Mel

    I think it is romantic to take a ring that was used in a marriage that ended in divorce, recycle it and give it a better story.

  • JustAnotherBlue

    In the interest of full disclosure, now that I’m at my computer and not on my crappy phone:

    My great Grandma’s engagement ring was supposed to go to me after she died. She lived on a farm and worked with her hands all day, so she never wore the ring and it lived in a box inside her dresser, but sometimes she would let me play with it when I was a kid and she would always tell me “When I’m gone, I want you to have this ring.” When she died, when I was in High School, I obviously had other things on my mind rather than OMG MY RING GIMME NOW, so the ring stayed (as far as I knew) in her dresser in the house which was next door to us and locked up tight with most of my Great Grandparents belongings inside. Maybe six months after her death, I asked my Mom about the ring…only to find out that the day after the funeral, my greedy aunt glommed onto it and took it away. My mom is a giant conflict avoider (and greedy aunt is her older sister) so she figured my aunt’s desire for the ring trumped what my Great Grandma had told me all my life.

    So fast forward years later, to my greedy aunt giving my Great Grandma’s (Gorgeous, late Victorian, already probably an heirloom before Great Grandma wore it) ring to my cousin, her vapid daughter, when she got engaged. And Vapid Cousin had the diamond recut (Because ZOMG those old cuts are like sooo not sparkly) and the gold melted down and sold for gold value so that she could get herself a precious little Tiffany set. And then got divorced in three years, so who even knows where my Great Grandma’s mutilated diamond ended up.

    I’m sorry if I sound bitter. It’s because I am. Vapid Cousin never met Great Grandma, my Aunt was pregnant with her when she died. She could have given two shits about that ring as a sentimental object, and she destroyed it in her quest to make it something that it was not. I would have worn it (on my right hand) as a reminder of my Gran, who loved me and who I miss. Yes it was a honker diamond, yes it might have been damaged by me wearing it (because I’m a person who wears jewelry, and every day) but the point is it was an object with meaning that got destroyed by someone else who it meant nothing to. That’s why I feel so strongly that you don’t muck around with a family heirloom. You appreciate it for what it is, or you pass it along to someone who will, you don’t melt it down into cufflinks that someone will never wear, or try to do something else with it to alter what it is if what it is makes you uncomfortable. Sorry to project my family drama onto your situation, but it is what it is.

    • Laura C

      Oh, that’s awful. There’s a similar (though not nearly as extreme) story in my family but it’s about tools — my grandfather had promised my father’s half-brother his tools by the time my father came along, and my uncle then gave them to his son who didn’t really seem to care about them, while they were really sentimentally important to my father because he and his father would do carpentry projects together with them when he was a kid. It kind of breaks my heart to think about it.

      Actually, my grandmother always told me I’d get her diamond rings since my mother doesn’t wear jewelry, but her will left everything to my mother, who was like “no, I am not giving a 22 year old a $15,000 dinner ring to head to grad school with” and stuck them all in a safety deposit box, where they remain. Not the same thing at all, though, because they are in fact safe and I will have them at some point. If I liked my mom less than I do, though, I’d probably still resent it.

    • I have nothing to say, other than the fact that this is a heartbreaking story. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I’d be bitter too. Hugs

    • Dusty

      I hate your vapid cousin. How could anyone do that to family history just so they can have a generic ring?

      I am very upset on your behalf.

  • Emily

    I give you mad props if you can wear any ring while rowing. I can’t even stand to wear my rings when I do yoga, much less any other athletic endeavor.

    • Same here. Although, I can’t even wear my rings when I’m typing. I don’t think I was meant to be a jewelry person.

  • Rachel

    Wear it! None of your family heirlooms would have anything to do with K anyway. You have everything else on your wedding day to connect to your partner, the heirloom symbolizes something entirely different. You clearly want to have something that connects you to your roots on your wedding day, otherwise you wouldn’t have asked your parents about it.

  • Anybody else boiling over with curiosity about this ring or is that just me?
    No need to accommodate the curiosity, I’m just saying. You described it SO lovingly…I’m over here thinking “wow, I wanna see this!” (mostly because a. family heirloom, b. curious about the “fashions” of the period, and c. wondering what condition it is in)…is it the cover photo?

  • Katy

    Am I the only one who thinks Elisabeth should still consider using this as her engagement or wedding ring? If you only want to wear it as a personal piece of jewelry on fancy occasions, or whenever it strikes your fancy, fantastic! :) That is great! However, if you want to use this gorgeous ring that has emotional value to you and makes you feel special as a symbol of your marriage to K, that is great, too! K loves you for being you, and if you love this ring, I’m sure she can come to appreciate that.

    My mom didn’t have an engagement ring, just a simple gold wedding band. I had never expected to get an engagement ring. However, it was very important and symbolic to my fiancé, so I readily acquiesced. It was a much bigger deal to him than to me. Now I have a beautiful diamond ring that is a symbol of our love and commitment. It is also sparkly and makes me feel special and pretty, and that is okay, too! (I am a no-makeup, yoga pants everyday kind of girl, so I don’t generally think of myself as an expensive jewelry person).

    So, my point is that if you want to wear it as your engagement ring, then you should! If you want to choose a different but equally special ring with K, do that! You can’t go wrong either way.

  • Sam A

    You love the ring. Wear the ring.

  • You guys, now I have a question: Is it ok to wear a family heirloom engagement ring if you’re NOT married or engaged? Like just ’cause you think it’s pretty?

    • YES

    • YES!!!

    • Elisabeth

      Y. E. S. And I didn’t have space to fit it into this post, but no one can actually remember if this ring was originally an engagement ring or if she bought it for herself. Which would totally change the story, no?

      • OK, thanks everybody! I’ll just wear fancy rings on my right hand so it’s not confusing.

    • Not Sarah

      I have a ring from my grandmother that I specifically wear on my middle finger on my right hand. An old boyfriend told me that guys get confused easily and equate “ring on girl’s left hand” with “engaged/married”, regardless of which finger it’s on.

  • Laurel

    Both my husband and I inquired about family heirlooms when we got engaged — mostly because we didn’t have much money, and I like reused items that come with a story. My husband ended up with his great-grandfather’s gold band, and I ended up with my great-grandmother’s 1930’s band set with 5 small diamonds. When my grandmother showed it to me she said,”When I saw your engagement ring (1930’s vintage estate sale ring) my first thought was how well this band would go with your engagement ring, but I didn’t think you’d want it since MawMaw got divorced.” WHAAAT? You’re offering me this beautiful ring and I’m going to say “no thanks” because the woman who wore it before me happened to divorce her husband? That’s craziness.

    First of all — I’m not my great-grandmother. My marriage is my marriage, and, no matter how it ends up, I’m walking my own path. Secondly, it’s a pretty ring! I love it and being gifted it saved me the time of searching for something I approved of within the budget I had ($0). Third, it has a story. Maybe it’s not the story with a perfect ending, but it has a history — and I love history — and it has family ties. If you buy a vintage ring or an estate sale ring – which are all really popular right now with that “vintage craze” – you won’t have any idea who wore the ring before you or for what purpose, or whether their marriage ended up happy. Who cares? Once the ring is yours, it’s yours. You just add to the story.

    Separately — rings are just material items. What’s the point in buying them or owning them if we don’t actually wear them? They are just a symbol. Wear the heck out of it, and if you happen to lose it, well, then “sad day.” Don’t get me wrong, I would be crushed if I lost my rings – and that’s why I never wear them to foreign countries or in the ocean, etc – BUT I also don’t constantly worry about losing or misplacing them. I’m careful, but not paralyzed by fear. You get over that fear real quickly, and the best advice is to get it properly fitted and not take it off — if you plan on it being your engagement/wedding ring. My ring symbolizes my love for my husband, but if I lose it I don’t lose that love. The ring is just a reminder.

    Finally — and this is the touchy subject — I get that you want your partner to feel okay about the ring, and you both want something that represents you and the union you’re making. All of marriage is a compromise in some way, BUT I also think that if you’re picking a piece of jewelry that you are going to look at everyday, you should really love it. I mean REALLY love it. And I don’t think that your partner necessarily has to love it as much as you do, because it’s not on their body. They should love it FOR you, and because YOU love it. Otherwise it’s like buying someone a gift with yourself in mind — and that’s selfish. Don’t get something trendy or cheap that’s going to break or need to be replaced every couple of years, because – after all – you might want something of your own to pass down to future generations one day. Something with a story, and hopefully something with a happy ending. :)

  • Melissa

    I have my grandmother’s engagement ring. In my family, the youngest (in my case only) granddaughter recieves her grandmother’s ring when she graduates college. When my aunt gave me the ring, Chenzo and I knew it was the one for me, especially because of my relationship with my grandmother. The hard part for me is the ring being so large and sparkly – we are simple people with simple things, so having such a large ring, which people frequently comment on, is jarring. But the connection to a long line of amazing women is more important to me than anyone else’s perceptions.

  • Franki

    Hello. Long time lurker, first-time poster. Sorry this is a bit long!

    I think the key here is what you say at the end, that the ring represents the importance of your family, but isn’t so much related to your marriage. And I think perhaps that’s the way you could wear it if you choose to. Marriage (from my point of view) isn’t just about you and your partner, but about the creation of families. And about creating a new baby-family (or complete new small family) from parts of older families. For example, when my stepdad and my mum got married my brother and I (and our teddies) gave her away and my stepdad built a bit into the ceremony where he gave my brother and I each a ring, to symbolise that he wasn’t just marrying our mum, he was marrying the whole family. So we weren’t really giving her away at all.

    So it definitely makes sense to me for you to have something to remind you of your family not just as part of your wedding but as part of your married life. Maybe not as a ring, but could you put it on a chain and wear it as a necklace, or add it as a charm on a bracelet (these are also bits of jewellery you can take off while rowing and put somewhere safe!). For the wedding you could even use it as part of a hair decoration if you’re having sparkly things in your hair. To me it would be about welcoming your old family into your new one, as much as it is about welcoming your new family into your old one. I guess this would be a part of bigger conversations with K about how you balance between you the different ways you’ve grown up with and how you don’t lose your heritage in creating something new. Because she has to be OK with how you wear this ring too for it to work for you I imagine. I hope that was clear!

  • Ltaz

    I second the “wear it on the right hand as a symbol” — I have 2 rings I wear daily: 1.) Wedding Ring (we were given his Grandma’s wedding ring, and found a great local place who used the gold and diamond to create a brand new ring more to my style)

    and I wear my claddagh ring on my right ring finger, which I consider my “pre-engagement” ring, as I bought it when we started talking seriously about marriage, so he would know my ring size if he needed it.

    I also had my Dad and Granddad’s Class rings placed in to my bouquet as a symobol for me to remember my family ties.

  • Ivy

    As a gal newly engaged and much in search of the best and most honest way to pull off a non-traditional wedding, I can certainly relate to your need to do it your way but still feel connected to family. My mother passed away when I was young and while I don’t see a fancy white dress or pews full of people, I have always seen her diamonds as part of my day. When it came time to decide what to do, carve up her ring and have it reset my way (sadly her style is not much like mine) or start anew, it happened I did a bit of both. My beloved picked an engagement ring that meant something to him and I, with great trepidation but a calm heart, had our jeweler pry a tiny stone out of her ring and add it to mine. When it was done and I had my ring in hand (and also my mother’s minus a part) it felt just the way I thought it would when I tried her ring on my tiny child’s fingers over 20 years ago. I’m uncertain what to do with the rest just yet but I’m sure it’ll come to me in time, just as this did.

    The point is, the right way is whatever you want it to be… family heirloom as engagement ring, special occasion ring, right hand ring, or reset to mean something different to you and K. Whatever that is, it should be something that embodies the sentiment you have in mind- it seems like you already have some great ideas for what you want it to be for you and K. Talk it over with K and keep an open mind and when you find the solution that feels right for you both, the rest won’t matter. Congratulations on your big day and wishing you a lifetime of happiness!

  • amanda

    I take off all jewelry when I work out. I have heard some terrible stories from friends (losing grandma’s diamond earrings in the pool, having your wedding ring dented onto your finger by a fast frisbee and having to get it cut off, etc.). I usually leave it in the jewelry dish by my bed, but if I forget I have a carabiner in my gym bag that I clip it to. Easy peasy for that part.

  • Hannah

    This ring makes you happy and reminds you of your family, which is exactly what you wanted. I understand the issues with it not meshing with you and K’s relationship, but that doesn’t mean your shouldn’t wear the ring, just maybe it shouldn’t be your wedding ring. Wear the beautiful family heirloom on your right hand, and the lovely constellation ring on your left, and then look down on them and be reminded of the amazing women you have in your life.