Romance in antiquing: The tale of Etta's diamond engagement ring
I remember the day, over 20 years ago, that my husband, Bob, and I were treasure hunting at the Harwich Antique Center. I was enchanted by a small, well-worn antique engagement ring.
Although I was entranced by its simple elegance, I had no intention of buying it. We had been married for decades at that point. The last thing I needed was an engagement ring. Plus, it was $450 and money was scarce.
Bob said, “You should try it on. You’ve never had an engagement ring, much less a diamond.”
“We’re broke,” I reminded him.
“I’ve been saving.”
My gaze lingered over the small ring. It held a little diamond that was surrounded by delicate platinum filigree. When Bob asked about it, the store clerk told us it was from the 1800s and was worn by someone named Etta.
I tried it on and felt its historic richness. I turned my hand this way and that to see the afternoon sun glisten upon each facet of the aged diamond. I fell in love with this ring.
I wondered: Did it spin a captivating web over Etta too? Did she worry about losing it while digging in the sand? Or maybe she kept it hidden under her handmade doilies, only to be taken out on special occasions. But judging from the timeworn filigree, I bet she wore it all the time.
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Alas, I returned Etta’s ring to its display case and Bob and I drove home. I mean, who buys themselves a diamond ring for heaven’s sake?
I am embarrassed to tell you, though, that for many days I kept thinking about the ring. So, with heavily laden guilt, I eventually made the self-centered decision to buy it.
I found Bob outside trimming bushes. “Sweets?” I said, “I’ve decided to be foolish and buy that ring.”
“Then let’s go back and get it!” He grabbed his checkbook before we headed to Harwich.
I felt deliciously naughty rushing to the glass display case. I had the anticipation of a child at Christmas.
I looked and looked for the ring but didn’t see it.
I said to the saleswoman, who happened to be the same woman who was there when I first saw the ring, “There was an old platinum diamond ring here last weekend.”
She searched carefully through the display case as well as in other jewelry cases, but she didn’t see it either. So she called over to a woman in another part of the shop and asked about the ring. That clerk said, “We sold it yesterday.”
I must admit to you, and it is with shame that I confess ― I felt terrible.
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My salesperson admonished me: “Whenever you see something you like in an antique store, you should buy it or it could be sold. And if you had told me that you were interested, I would have even held it for you for a week or two.”
On our ride home, I could tell Bob felt awful too. I touched his shoulder. “It was just a ring, sweets.”
Eventually, memories of Etta’s ring faded away.
Many months later, on Valentine’s Day, my adoring husband brought me breakfast in bed. He had made my favorite ― poached eggs on English muffins.
“Ooooh Bob,” I said upon taking my first bite of his scrumptious creation, “heaven can wait.”
Then I noticed a big box about 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall that was giftwrapped in fancy red wrapping paper. It had dangling ribbons with little hearts on the ends.
When I opened the big box, I found another smaller box nested inside. And inside that was another. On and on it went until I came to the very last one. It was a tiny jewelry box with the label: Harwich Antique Center.
Oh my goodness gracious; my sweet husband had gone and bought me another engagement ring.
I couldn’t help but cry as I picked up the little box, but my poignant tears quickly changed to astonished bewilderment.
For inside the box, somehow, some way, was Etta’s ring.
“This couldn’t be,” I said. “It was already sold!”
“I know,” he was glowing, “I went right back there that same day and bought it.”
“But the two women told me it was sold. They even lectured me that I should have bought the ring when I saw it.”
He could barely stop laughing to say, “I told them to say all that. We rehearsed everything.”
“You mean they were acting?”
I tried to speak, but I couldn’t.
Bob placed Etta’s ring on my wedding ring finger, where it remains to this very day.
And so, what once touched Etta’s skin, is now touching mine ― but only for the time being. We don’t own, well, anything. We just borrow it while we’re here. When my time comes to an end, the ring will find its next resting place, and so on.
That is what makes Bob’s gift truly timeless.
My sweetheart’s adoration of me, and my adoration of him, is effervescent like the diamond; it always has been and always will be.
And that, I say with a full heart, is what makes our love truly everlasting.
Award-winning columnist, Saralee Perel, lives in Marstons Mills. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook. Her column runs the first Friday of every month.
This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Saralee Perel: A timeless Valentine's Day gift and a love everlasting