Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

Engagement Rings

Today is my eighth wedding anniversary, so I’ve been feeling nostalgic and thinking about all that has changed since Drew and I tied the knot. There are the obvious things, of course. There’s our move to Brooklyn a year after our wedding, where we’ve been happily putting down roots. There are lots of new friends, some sad losses, many happy occasions, and a few challenges along the way, just like with any marriage. There’s also a new engagement ring.

My original engagement ring (pictured above), which I love, belonged to my great-grandmother, who married in 1928, I believe. As the eldest grandchild (though not the first to marry), I was lucky enough to inherit the ring if I wanted it, and I did. I wanted a vintage ring, one that ideally had some special meaning, and its free or inexpensive was a big perk, too. (Drew and I were on a tight budget, and preferred spending more of our money on a great honeymoon than a fancy wedding or pricey rings.) My mother passed along my great-grandmother’s ring when I was home for Christmas in 2008, about a 2-1/2 years after Drew and I started dating and a little more than a year after I moved from Chicago to Manhattan to be with him. I gave the ring to Drew and told him to have it sized and then give it to me when he was ready to propose. A week later he invited me on a snowy walk in Central Park, where he’d written in sidewalk chalk: “Wendy, will you marry me? – Drew.” I said yes, and the rest is history.

But a few weeks after I started wearing my new-to-me engagement ring, I developed a rash around my finger. Over the years, the rash has come and gone, depending on different factors. The ring, which we added a custom-designed wedding band to, often felt heavy on my hand, too. I have pretty small hands and fingers and some sensory issues that have always made wearing big or heavy rings uncomfortable. I mentioned to Drew a few times that I might like a different ring one day โ€” maybe something lighter and made of a different metal that wouldn’t aggravate my skin.

A few months ago we were in Austin, just the two of us, for a weekend away without the kids. We woke up in our cute little AirBnB on our first morning, and Drew surprised me with a gorgeous vintage-style engagement ring that he selected himself and which was perfect. I feel really lucky to have two special rings now โ€” one with a lot of history that will always remind me of my heritage and a window in time when my marriage was brand new and Drew and I were carving a life for ourselves and making dreams for the future–and another ring that symbolizes to me renewal and continued commitment. Of course, the real luck comes from having found a partner who is as loving and generous and well-matched for me as Drew is.

Those of you who are married, or are or have been engaged, how did you go about selecting your ring? Did you leave it up entirely to your partner? Did you pick something out yourself? Use a family ring? And did you, like me, ever get a second ring?

24 comments… add one
  • Portia July 24, 2017, 12:25 pm

    Happy anniversary Wendy!

    I like the ring my husband got because he got it at an auction house and so he’s got a story to tell about it (he’s a good storyteller). I don’t really wear it much anymore since when I wear anything larger than a simple band I knock it on everything. Plus I have to take off jewelry for ceramics and I’d probably lose it (that’s how I’ve lost jewelry in the past, despite my best intentions).

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  • Katie July 24, 2017, 12:44 pm

    Can we see the new one?! (I’m a sucker for engagement rings and the stories they hold)

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    • Lianne July 24, 2017, 1:27 pm

      Wondered the same thing!

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  • honeybeenicki July 24, 2017, 12:52 pm

    Happy anniversary! For mine, I picked a traditional gold/diamond engagement and wedding ring but wasn’t happy with it. It was pretty and fine, but it just didn’t represent me or us. So I later got a new one that is black diamond, rubies along the side and stainless steel. It is much more me and I love it. My husband didn’t want anything to do with picking either out because I’m so picky when it comes to jewelry.

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  • ktfran July 24, 2017, 1:00 pm

    The first time I was engaged, back in 2007, I had gone with my aunt and I tried on rings at Tiffany’s. Not that I wanted a Tiffany ring, but I wanted to see what type of ring I’d someday like since I was in a serious relationship at the time. In my head, I wanted a simple round ring, but they looked awful on my finger. So emerald cut it is! The ex proposed to me several months later after a nice dinner and walk on the beach with a gorgeous emerald cut/two baguette white gold ring. He had gone to diamond dealers in Miami with his dad to pick it out. The ring was perfect, but alas, the marriage wasn’t meant to be.

    Fast forward to last October when the fiance proposed to me before a big black tie affair with beautiful diamond earrings. I had thought he was going to propose two weeks prior on our trip to Napa/Calistoga, but he tricked me and held off. Sneaky little bastard. He even asked after a day of tasting wine if I thought he was going to propose and I told him yes! After that. I figured it would be months. Nope. Two weeks.

    Anyway, after I called off the first engagement, a ring no longer held meaning to me, personally. Yes, I realize it was replaced with another shiny object. But that perfect ring I wanted so badly, I couldn’t do it again.

    Once we exchange vows, I’ll wear a band. For now, I’m sporting some pretty kick ass earrings.

    Oh, and happy anniversary! I love your stories.

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  • GertietheDino July 24, 2017, 1:25 pm

    If I ever get married, it will be with my mom’s ring, which is super tiny but is a good reminder that great things come from small beginnings (they’ve been married for 40 years and are stupid happy) and to stay humble.

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  • Miel July 24, 2017, 1:28 pm

    I have a question: any of you has shopped for a ring online? What about etsy? I feel like I would want a “vintage” or “non-traditional” ring, but it feels like such a big purchase to do online, without trying it on your finger first!

    And if not online, then where? I guess I don’t know where to shop for a ring that is of good quality but not kay/jared/other ultra-traditional places.

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    • Chaparra July 24, 2017, 2:31 pm

      I got my vintage ring from Gesner estate jewelers offline. I loved the vintage look of it (and the lower price- they let you make an offer and they ended up taking the first offer I made them for it). They were great about the return policy if I didn’t want to keep it, and sent me pictures of it on an actual hand. I had a really, really hard time finding a matching wedding band. It took years, but I finally went with a micro-pave band that’s super petite and works really well. To find that one I bought from Brilliant Earth but theirs were too big (they took my return just fine) and then finally found one when I called a local independent jeweler to make something custom. My budget was 400-600 and he didn’t flinch, which I thought he would, but instead talked to me about my options and had an estate piece in stock I loved. I also bought off Etsy one to try- no problems sending it back, either (not quite proportional to my ring). The seller had great reviews, so I think that’s the key. Don’t be ashamed of your budget (I only mention that because I was) and if the seller has good reviews and is in the US (I didn’t want to mess with a possible flag at customs), then I’d trust them. Hope that helps!
      ps- after I got my Gesner ring, I sure did take it and have it verified to be what they said it was at another jeweler. The didn’t charge me, which was shocking but who am I to argue? ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • SpaceySteph July 24, 2017, 3:05 pm

      My ring is a variant of this one: https://www.krikawa.com/rings/three-stone-swirl-engagement-ring

      My husband did all the shopping for the engagement ring so I can’t tell you too much about that, but I was involved in the design of a custom wedding band to match and we went back and forth a couple times with the designers on how it should look. They were very responsive and even sent him colored stone samples for him to pick the right color, along with sizing rings to measure me.

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    • Rebecca July 24, 2017, 4:23 pm

      The husband and I found a great local place where we live (Seattle) to have my ring created. Green Lake Jewelry Works…. It’s a great place that employs local artists and use only humane/eco friendly stones and you can bring in your own ideas or drawings and have it created. So, I suggest seeking out a local jeweler in your area. Or email the place I went to, they’d probably do long distance pieces! Good luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • Lianne July 24, 2017, 1:31 pm

    Happy anniversary! I loved your old ring…can’t wait to see the new one! A friend of mine had her grandmother’s vintage ring turned into a necklace. The top of the setting is one a very beautiful, delicate necklace. It reminds me of your ring very much.

    My husband picked out my ring himself. We had gone together to just look at some rings/stones but I wanted to be surprised. He knew I liked a vintage-y look, and I also wanted an emerald cut stone. He met with a jeweler and fell in love with the sparkle of the round cut diamond so got that instead. It’s perfect and I love it. I am so glad he picked it out by himself and I that I loved it immediately!

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  • MaterialsGirl July 24, 2017, 1:57 pm

    Got it at an estate jeweler in Chicago. He took one of my dear friends on a ‘date’ with him that day and they went around and picked it out.. had lunch, donuts, the works. I then got to take a look at it before he asked me (even though we had already booked City Hall by that point).

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  • carolann July 24, 2017, 2:21 pm

    I originally wore my Great Grandmother’s white gold wedding band from the late 1920’s. I had a reaction to mine too. I remember my Grandmother telling me that my Great Grandmother couldn’t wear it either. (she never wore any jewelry after that because she ended up having a reaction to everything) I put it up to save for my daughter (now I have two daughters) and about 7 years in my husband bought me a white gold channel set ring which I love.

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  • Guy Friday July 24, 2017, 2:36 pm

    So I knew exactly the kind of ring I wanted to get my now-wife, did all the research on the “4 Cs” and all, but I had no earthly idea where to go to accomplish it. Luckily, I had a “work wife” (i.e., my best female friend from law school who worked with me at the time), and we went 3 times to the nearby jeweler to look at diamonds. I knew I wanted a princess cut on a platinum band, so I just had to pick the right diamond, and in hindsight I knew the one I wanted on the first visit because it caught the light perfectly, but went twice more just to be sure. When we got wedding bands, my wife got a wrap that slid around the engagement ring and got soldered together to make one full ring, with the original diamond prominently displayed still because she loved it.

    At some point (maybe our 10 year anniversary?) I’d love to get her another ring. The problem is that she’s going to want to get matching rings, and I love the simple platinum band I have and don’t want to change it to anything with more bling, you know?

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    • SpaceySteph July 24, 2017, 3:32 pm

      I totally wanted matching bands, but my ring wasn’t really feasible for a standard band due to the shape so I had a custom band made to match my engagement ring, and my husband picked a black titanium ring with meteor inlaid. Sigh. First world problems.

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  • SpaceySteph July 24, 2017, 3:27 pm

    Semi related… If your ring is giving you a rash, try soaking it in hydrogen peroxide. All kinds of nasty gets stuck up under there, especially if its not just a flat band. My ring is palladium which is supposedly hypoallergenic, but I got a rash around 2.5 years of marriage exactly the size/shape of the center stone which is exposed to my finger underneath. I had to stop wearing it for a while, tried slathering cortisone under there, tried boiling it, tried rubbing alcohol, before I found that suggestion on a message board. I now soak it in peroxide about twice a year.

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    • Dear Wendy July 24, 2017, 5:59 pm

      This is a hood tip – thanks!

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  • Kitnkabutle July 24, 2017, 3:51 pm

    At the time we got married we had two incomes and no kids so we def. splashed out a bit. I’m glad because we’ve had some pretty lean times since then. Most important for me was getting a low sitting setting so I wouldn’t scratch everything or get the diamond caught on things. I have biggish hands so I got a 1 carat round diamond and a pretty heavy duty platinum band for it. I still love it!

    I’ve had trouble with rashes coming and going. Can’t image my skin is reacting to platinum so I’m thinking it is all the gunk that gets jammed under my ring – moisturizer, soap, sunscreen, etc. A little cortisone seems to clear up the problem within a day or two.

    I almost never take it off after hearing horror stories from friends and relatives about ring mishaps – SIL took her’s off at the gym to wash her hands and forgot to put them back on. She returned to the gym within a half and hour and someone had helped themselves! A friend accidentally pushed her’s into the garbage while cleaning her kitchen and realized too late to recover them.

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    • SpaceySteph July 25, 2017, 8:28 am

      I told my husband that I wanted something that seemed sturdy and “not those little prongy things.” Poor guy had some very odd instructions. He found one that fit the bill, though, which i s good because I definitely HAVE smacked my hand into multiple things over the years.

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  • Ange July 24, 2017, 6:58 pm

    Happy anniversary! I love your original ring, it’s so cool. Seconding the call to see the new one ๐Ÿ™‚

    My ring is a third generation hand me down, my great aunt left it to my mum in her will. Apparently the original design wasn’t that attractive so my mum had it remade into a solitaire. When things were getting serious with my now husband she gave it to me and I had it remade yet again. It still has all the original gold so it tickles me that even in its new state my ring must be at least 80 years old. My great aunt was apparently quite well off (I never met her, I had just been born and my mum was taking me to meet her but she passed suddenly while we were en route) and the diamond is really good. We’re lucky it’s worth a lot more than what we paid to have it remade. Sadly I had a terrible arthritis flare crop up and had to get it cut off so it’s waiting for everything to subside before I get it fixed.

    The big thing I think about often with my ring is who I should pass it on to. We’re CF and I don’t have any relatives I trust with it.

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  • FannyBrice July 24, 2017, 10:19 pm

    My engagement ring is from my husband’s paternal grandfather and the wedding ring was his maternal grandmother’s. My MIL had them both, and knowing how much I love both sentimental things and 1920s-1930s design, offered them to my husband before he even told her he was going to propose (she really loves me). I have to take them off for work, where I wear them on a chain like a necklace, and I never ever wear them to the beach – right after we got engaged I had a nightmare that I lost them in the sand and 10 yrs later I’m still terrified it will happen for real!!

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  • FannyBrice July 24, 2017, 10:20 pm

    Oops – the engagement ring is from his paternal grandMOTHER.

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  • Jayhawker July 25, 2017, 9:15 am

    I have my grandmother’s rings. My husband and I had been looking at simple solitaires so he wouldn’t have to make too much of a decision (lol) and then we’d pick out the band(s) but then my parents remembered they had my grandma’s just sitting in their safe deposit box(!!) and thought that my grandparents would rather see them used. The diamond isn’t the highest quality, but you can’t tell. And quite the rock at 1.5 carats.

    But I love telling the story: my great-grandfather invested in diamonds after the great depression, and bought these diamonds then. He passed when my grandfather was still a young teen or so. Before my grandfather went off to fight in WW2, he got the diamonds set in a ring for my grandma. I’m really not sure how old the diamond is – it was cut pre-1930s and I wish I could know it’s full story! The setting is simple and classic as is the band. I had permission to get it reset, but we just changed it from a 4 to 6 prong setting to hold it in better and got it cleaned up. I can’t imagine changing it at all.

    It means so much more than any ring he could’ve bought. My grandfather passed when I was about 6 yrs old. My grandmother passed when I was about 16, but she had been slipping away for many years due to Alzheimer’s. So that, on top of the vows and commitment of marriage, make these pretty special!

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  • Daisy July 26, 2017, 6:36 am

    My now husband and I went to look at engagement rings together, about a week before my birthday a few years ago. I found two that I really liked and told him to decide between them. If felt like a good way to make sure I was getting a ring I loved but also let him surprise me a little.

    I was kind of expecting him to propose on my birthday, but he ended up being sick that whole week after we went to see the rings. By the time it was my birthday I figured the proposal wouldn’t be that day because he’d never had time to go back to the jewelry store. But somehow (I still don’t know exactly how) he pulled it off, even in his sickness he went to pick up the ring and he proposed on my birthday after cooking me a wonderful dinner, same meal he made the first time he ever cooked for me.

    I think the funniest part is that when we went to pick out wedding bands, he chose his because “it looked like a shiny pipe.” This is not a guy who had ever worn a piece of jewelry, and his reasoning cracked me up! But he’s worn it every day since our wedding, so I guess there’s some appeal to a ring that looks like a pipe!

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