When I got engaged, sometime in the last century—1984, which really does seem like a distant era—I was presented with the requisite diamond solitaire ring, a one-carat stone in the plainest possible four-prong setting. I can’t show it to you because I eventually got tired of looking at it and had the stone reset. To go with it, I chose the plainest possible wedding band, a mere three millimeters wide.
My husband said, ‘Are you sure? That looks like a nun’s ring. Don’t you want a wider one?’ ‘No’, I said. ‘I want it narrow because I’m never going to take it off, and it has to be comfortable.’ I’m not sure what prompted this nunny decision. But I felt that a wedding ring should stay put. And indeed, mine has remained on my finger for my entire marriage, except for a short surgery when the doctor insisted I remove it because it wasn’t sterile. (That is never happening again. Next time I need surgery, they can just slather it with Betadine or wrap it in a bandage.)
I know I’m superstitious about this, and It’s quite possible I’m reacting to my mother, who wasn’t. She often left her ring in her jewelry box, from which it was ultimately stolen by some workman or other. If she was upset by its loss, she didn’t show it. She found other rings to wear on her left hand, the last of which was the handmade band at left, too chunky and artsy-craftsy for my taste. Though it does have something, doesn’t it? My father always wore his wedding band. I don’t know what became of it.
I had illusions that my refusal to remove my wedding ring showed superior devotion. But my extremely devoted husband refuses to wear one at all. He thinks they’re unlucky, based on his previous marriage. He had the ring from that union melted down, and gave the cash to panhandlers a dollar or two at a time. Changing its karma, he said. And to tell the absolute truth…
…the smallness and plainness of my wedding band has made it possible for me to wear it with all kinds of other bands, only some of which are pictured above. In my hunger for variety, I’m more like my mother than I thought. And a lot more acquisitive.
For the record, even plain wedding bands come in a variety of shapes, illustrated in the chart at right. The most wedding-y, to my mind, is the court shape, slightly rounded on the inside as well as the outside, which makes it easier to slip on and off. My band is a D shape, or half round, meaning it’s flat on the inside. I hardly know it’s there, but I find it reassuring to fiddle with. Wedding bands—like long marriages—should be comfortable.
There’s something pure and elemental about a band that’s round as a little halo inside and out, like the diamond-studded one above by Michele Berman. It looks awkward next to the wedding band, but it’s great with the big star sapphire ring I’ve shown you before. The older I get, the more I want to wear rings in stacks.
I’ve taken to inserting entirely unnecessary diamond bands between my wedding ring and my engagement diamond, above left, and my grandfather’s diamond, above right—as if to say, ‘Less isn’t more. More is more.’ I swear this is what my mother would have done.
The diamonds in the bands above left were originally set in a bracelet that didn’t fit me. They make nice guard rings for a crazy rose gold band (from the 50s), which would fall off my finger otherwise. The ruby bands above right look good together even though one is Victorian and the other was made last year.
My favorites are probably the two bands below, in green gold and platinum, by Michele Berman. Either could be a wedding band—they have that timeless look, and they’re comfortable, with a satisfying heft. I’d probably wear them every day if I weren’t so restless about jewelry.
I’ve spent a lifetime accumulating these bands. They’re my past and present. And strangely enough, given what time does to the joints of the fingers, they all still fit. I can’t say that for my jackets, which are still the right size but suddenly the wrong shape. Or for my hair, which used to be longer but suddenly started looking better shorter. My hands look older, but the visible veins aren’t new; they started popping out when I practiced the piano as a girl. I used to be proud of those veins. Now they just look like my mother’s.
The silver bands above are the ones I’ve had longest, and they may have been actual wedding rings. The one with the clasping hands, I now realize, is a Gimmel Fede ring (from Latin gemellus, or twin, and Italian fede, or faith). It’s a betrothal ring, and probably Victorian, though Gimmel rings go back much farther than that. Whose entwined lives did these rings represent?
As I type this post, every ring on this page except one—the wedding band—has been put away. Whatever jewelry I’m wearing comes off the minute I get home. The watch comes off too. It all starts annoying me as soon as I walk in the door. I don’t know why this is. But the nun’s ring stays put.