I love my engagement ring.
Heck, what’s not to adore? Unique because the Hubster and I and a jeweler designed it together, the white gold band has an oval, three-quarter carat diamond in its center—and yes, the stone is officially cruelty free. Then there’s a smaller, denim-colored sapphire on the left side, and another on the right. The figurative cherry on top is eight tiny diamond chips, set flush next to the blue stones.
I wear the ring proudly. And, having married for the first time at the age of 50, I still sometimes find myself looking at it with a certain amount of awe. In fact, except for the times when I’ve traveled to what might be iffy regions of the world, when I then leave the ring at home, I’ve never removed it.
If I’d taken a few steps back, I might have noticed that there were other options when it came to my left ring finger.
No, I wouldn’t have opted for a cigar band (as a former celebrity reporter, I can tell you that this is exactly what Richard Gere initially gave his first wife, Cindy Crawford), or a tattoo on said digit (a move that Pamela Anderson and rocker Tommy Lee did when they honored their vows).
But, maybe, I would have gone for something old and then made it mine.
Which is to say, new to me.
A quick Ebay search for vintage engagement rings yields nearly 4,000 hits. The jewelry here is mostly diamonds, but there are also rubies, sapphires and emeralds. Prices are user friendly, too, with some pieces posted at less than $200. (Because of my own mostly positive experiences with this site, both buying and selling, I believe most sellers stay honest in order to stay in business.)
Also, repurposing and recycling aren’t exactly unknowns to this girl clown.
I’m the third owner of the vehicle I drive; second owner to a coffee maker, and no doubt here, the latest of several owners to a 1950s Kenmore toaster (it’s built like a solid car from that era, too, all chrome and flash, and works perfectly). Most of my pots and pans came from estate sales, as did my nifty turquoise Sunbeam mixer. There’s more:
I have a beautiful piece of art hanging in my office that’s nearly entirely made up of used pens and pencils. This artist’s domain, I kid you not, is creating pieces from stuff she scavenges from junkyards. Oh, and in the back yard, my raised herb box boasts recycled fence posts for borders; the same wood makes up the potting table.
Yet the idea of repurposing a piece of jewelry wasn’t something I’d ever considered, until this happened.
A good friend has an Etsy business that’s more a hobby than a money-making enterprise. A few months ago, she messaged me her latest offerings, mostly elegant vintage dinnerware, brooches and linens from France and The Netherlands. I tend to be a collector of Americana stuff—show me an old Pyrex dish or cookbook that I don’t already have, and my heart goes pitty-pat—so I wasn’t expecting to find much.
Then… my breath caught at a single piece of jewelry.
It was a child’s delicate charm bracelet featuring The 10 Commandments, intertwined with tiny pearls. I knew, immediately, that I had to have it.
Once the dainty bauble arrived, my friend explained a bit of its history.
The piece had come from the Irish side of her mother’s family, she wrote, and had probably been a communion or christening memento.
“I have a lot of religious items from my family,” she continued. “And, it’s hard to know what to do with them. I didn’t feel right about discarding items that were important, even sacred to them. And even though I’m not religious, I recognize
the beauty of the objects.”
My friend went on to say that there was a time when many fine things were made in the United States (and elsewhere, too). Consequently, she continued, “I cannot see the point of buying new, inferior items when there are so many wonderful, real, quality things to be had.”
I couldn’t agree more.
So now, with this sweet wristlet having been delivered to my doorstep, the stage was set to make it my own.
To this end, I carefully transported the piece to our local jewelers, a husband and wife team whose work I know and trust. Neither was sure of its exact vintage, but they thought it could be from the 1940s. In any case, within a couple of days they had replaced the clasp with a larger, adult size one; added a couple of inches of links to fit my grown-up wrist, and put on new, real pearls (turns out the original ones were not). They also cleaned the bracelet, making each charm shine as bright as a new penny.
Wearing this now gorgeous bangle makes me feel that all is right with the world, so I’ve been wearing it a lot. Having it on is also a pretty direct, in my face (or rather, on my arm) reminder to try my best to follow those rules of life that, I think, are found in some form in nearly every religion and philosophy.
Just as important, I’ve now discovered one other way to leave less of a footprint on a planet that more and more, requires all of its inhabitants to be extra mindful and extra purposeful caretakers.
Recycling, repurposing, and in the end, giving a lovely piece of jewelry—and its history—a brand new lease at life.
And that, I’m certain, is A Very Good Thing.
How about you? What do you have that’s old, but made new? I look forward to your comments and stories!
P.S. Find the junkyard artist at http://junkgirls.com. My friend’s Etsy site is www.etsy.com/shop/JardinBlanche?ref=l2-shopheader-name, and for the jewelry store I so love, check out https://www.yelp.com/biz/legacy-jewelers-los-osos.