Ask Team Practical: Do I Need A New Ring?

Should I reuse a ring from a past relationship?

Ask Team Practical: Do I Need a New Ring? | APW (1)

Q: My grandmother’s engagement ring is so lovely, and all throughout my childhood, I thought about how someday, I would be married with her beautiful ring.

The thing is, a couple years ago, I was with this person I thought I would marry. We had a conversation-proposal (“I had a dream we got married. Want to do that in a couple years?” “Sure!” Fast forward one year: “Hey, wanna announce it?” “Sure!”) and I asked my family for my grandmother’s ring. The day after I received it, she passed away in her Alzheimer’s care home, and I felt like receiving a token of her and my grandfather’s amazing, sixty-plus year love story somehow gave me this gift of love I can carry with all throughout my life. Unfortunately, I wore that beautiful ring for a year, that person and I never made a single wedding plan, and I ended up breaking up with him after realizing that I didn’t want to marry anyone who would just agree “sure” to any question I had about our future. That was generally his attitude about everything and we both realized that we weren’t very compatible at all. (When I left the relationship, my friends and family told me how happy they were that I didn’t marry him, and how—nice guy that he really was—they could tell it wasn’t going to work out. Thanks for telling me ahead of time, guys!) I went on a soul-searching quest for a couple years, found many things I did and did not like in others, realized what I wanted and absolutely did not want in a relationship, and BOOM. Met the love of my life. We’ve been living together in the most joyous, loving, sweetness for about six months, and we’ve been together just shy of a year.

Now, we’re planning on planning our wedding. My grandmother’s ring is still beautiful, an amazing heirloom, but my feelings about it have changed a lot. After I ended my relationship with my ex, I switched my ring to my right hand, as a symbol of my commitment to myself. Almost immediately into this relationship, I took it off, feeling silly wearing a giant rock on my hand two weeks into a pretty obviously long-run relationship.

As my sweetie and I look at rings, I feel myself gravitating toward bezel settings with alternative rose cut stones (moissanite, black diamonds, sapphires, etc.), and they’re beautiful. I also can’t justify to myself spending tons of money on a ring, so these $300–$600 pieces seem ideal.

I feel like I need that (inexpensive, but decent) physical investment that I can show the people around me, so they know this one isn’t some passive mistake like the last one. At the same time, I feel like I have this beautiful object that I hold so dear, why not use it? But it feels like it’s changed meaning to me. When I slip it on, I don’t feel magical and loved. I feel like I’m wearing my grandmother’s ring, and like it would be so nice to feel the way she did when she got that beautiful thing.

So, my question is… Am I being ridiculous? I know some people would kill for an heirloom like that, and I’m afraid I’m being petty, or wasteful, or that I might seem ungrateful. As much as I wish I felt romance when I put it on, but I just… Don’t.


A: Dear C,

If you don’t feel it, don’t wear it. Real-life, grown-up weddings rarely match what we imagine as little girls, and we’re usually better off for it (good god, the puffy sleeves I wanted). Talk to your partner and pick out a new ring for this new relationship.

But, please don’t get a ring for other people. Ugh, other people. The really nosy ones with nothing better to do will still gossip and mutter, “Hmph, wonder if this one will last!” But most folks won’t. Because you know what happens a lot? People break off relationships and find someone that fits them better. People learn things and change course and figure out what they actually need. Most grown ups know that. And your very closest loved ones—the ones who maybe could’ve warned you that the last guy wasn’t great—they can probably feel the difference for themselves. Don’t get a new ring to prove anything to anyone else because at best, you don’t need to, and at worst, you won’t be able to shut ’em up anyway.

But if you want a new ring for you and your relationship, go on, lady. Take that lovely old heirloom from grand mom, give it to your partner and ask him to keep it for awhile and then give it back to you when the time feels right. That old ring will have completely new connotations on your fortieth birthday or twenty-fifth anniversary, when you’re receiving it from the love of your life.

The trinkets around you will change meaning all the time. We’ve all experienced that—some really terrific music, maybe our favorite places, distorted by the past. But, you can step away for a bit, and come back later to make them new. Right now, maybe the significance of this ring has been dulled by recent past. But give it some time, and you can let it gain altogether new meaning, better than before.

Team Practical, when should you reuse relics from old relationships? When is it time to throw in the towel and get something new?

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If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

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  • I love the idea of giving it to your partner to give back to you in the future! It also seems like if you did get another ring to wear as an engagement ring, this might be a good time to give the right hand another go with your grandmother’s ring. Jewelry can mean a lot of things over time, and perhaps if you had something lovely and romantic on your left hand, you’d look at the ring on your right hand and think of family or your own history and could sort of create new associations with it!

  • Jessica

    Brent made a ring for my using my mother’s diamond from her engagement ring from my dad (they are now divorced) I love the ring and I love that it has something of my parents in it, but it is new created just for me. At our ten year anniversary Brent made me a beautiful Platinum/diamond ring that I now wear with my wedding band. I switched my engagement ring to the other hand. I think you can wear as many rings as you want. There are no rules about how many rings you have on your fingers. I decided last year I would wear ALL my meaningful rings. The monogram ring that was my grandmother’s, my great great Aunt’s wedding band, 3 fingerprint rings Brent has made for me…, a ring with my son’s name engraved on the inside, my wedding band. I look like the crazy ring lady but I love all my rings and why not wear them. How you adorn yourself is personal. It is a great conversation starter this ring? Oh it was my grandmother’s, she recently passed and it means so much to me, I wear it as a commitment to myself. They will be inspired by you, as I am, you can be sure.

  • Amanda

    What truly beautiful advice on such a complex topic.

  • Shiri

    At the risk of sounding kind of mercenary, would you consider breaking the ring up? You could use the stone for a new ring now, and later on down the line, reset something else in the setting as a present to yourself (or, your fiance-now husband-then could). This way, you’ve got something of your grandmother and family in your marriage, but it isn’t the same ring.

    ETA: I agree with Liz, don’t get a new ring for the onlookers. Do this for you.

  • lady brett

    “as a symbol of my commitment to myself”
    my first thought was that you could keep it as that. new ring for your new commitment, but hang onto that symbol of commitment to yourself – that’s a damn nice thing to be reminded of sometimes.

  • Meg

    Perfect advice! One more thing, she didn’t say if she was an only grand child or not, she might have a sibling or cousin who could get use out of it.

    • kcaudad

      That is what I was thinking… If she isn’t the only family member left, she could see if another family member would like to keep it for a while. Maybe someone else in the family would like to have that meaningful peice. My sister and I share my late mother’s jewlery and often pass it back and forth to wear for special occassions or specific times in our lives.

  • MelissaRel

    I say get the new ring you want with your future husband, but keep your grandmother’s ring as a right-hand, commitment to yourself ring.

  • Kayjayoh

    “Take that lovely old heirloom from grand mom, give it to your partner and ask him to keep it for awhile and then give it back to you when the time feels right. ”

    This is a lovely idea.

  • Amy Elizabeth

    Best advice I got lately was that desire is sacred, and lives in the body. To tap into it, and touch our knowing of what we *really* want, we must get out of our heads and allow ourselves to feel. There are so many good options about things you can do – wear it on your right hand, give it to him to give back to you, have it reset into something else, etc… But there is no “right” answer. Its all about what feels good to you. Find some quiet and see what your body has to say about it.

  • jhs

    Such good advice. Yes, if your grandmother’s ring now signifies a commitment to yourself, and you’re loving something else that’s in your price range, go for it.

    Also, my engagement ring is actually my great-grandmother’s engagement diamond my fiance got reset. She had given it to my aunt when she turned 21, and my aunt gave it to me when I turned 21. It had been reset in something that wasn’t really my style, but I loved that we had this family diamond, and also figured it would be cheaper/ethically better for my fiance to use that diamond instead of buying a new one. So I gave it to him about 6 months before we got engaged (we had been talking about it for a while) and said when the time comes use that. And now I love my ring, which has this family heirloom but is also new and completely my own. So something like that is also an option!

    • Liz

      Same with me! My engagement diamond was my great-grandmother’s, then my grandmother’s, who gave it to me for my high school graduation gift. I had my parents keep the ring and let my fiance know that he could ask them for it whenever he was ready. The diamond was set into a new setting, which I love, because it’s an heirloom but still unique to me. I may try to use the setting it was in originally to make my wedding band.
      To the original poster, if you don’t feel right wearing the ring anymore for either purpose, you could always save it to pass down to one of your children, if you have them. The ring already has a part of you with it and would make a really meaningful gift to someone else in your family someday, whether or not it’s something you wear on a regular basis.

  • Sarah E

    I’d say continue to wear your grandmother’s ring on your right hand. After all, your commitment to yourself is still going strong, right? Like Liz said, people around can see that you feel magical and loved- that kind of feeling shines right through. My partner and I decided against engagement rings, but my mom has a ring of my great-grandmother’s that she got resized for me. when I get that ring, it’s going on my right hand- because it’s from my family, not from my partner. To each her own, but like Liz said, make the decision based on what’s right for your relationship. You don’t have power over what other people think of you or how they perceive your relationship, so fuck’em and just do you.

  • 39bride

    She nailed it in the first words: “If you don’t feel it, don’t wear it.”

    This is all about feelings, not rationality. I’m the kind of person who who over-analyzes everything and tries to argue myself out of my feelings. I have a gorgeous, sexy white nightgown in a container under our bed, but my 18-months’ husband doesn’t even know it exists. It would’ve been perfect for our wedding night, but it has some bad associations from a big mistake I made before we met. I’ve never seen anything like it since I bought it and I was hoping that over time it would lose its’ connotations, but it hasn’t. I think I might have to give it to a thrift store.

    The point is, it’s not a question of reasonable or logical. This is definitely one of those times where you go with your heart. Good luck, OP.

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  • Manny Spoelstra

    For me, it really does not matter. The commitment is far more important!