By an Anonymous Author
After a marriage of 20 years ended in an unwanted divorce, I am uncertain as to what to do with my jewelry box and precious stones. My jewelry box at one time was my most cherished personal possession. I often envisioned that in case of a fire it would be the one material possession I would salvage from my home. Not because of the gems housed within, but because it was a handcrafted work of art designed for and made for me by my then-husband. It is the most beautiful box of cherry burled wood, 24-karat door pulls, dovetailed drawers lined with deer hides from his hunts. And there are lots of drawers because he knew my love for all things organized. The jewelry box was custom designed to accommodate necklaces, earrings, bracelets and trinkets.
Like most couples we started off financially strapped and gifts of jewelry were few and far between but cherished. I never hinted that I wanted gifts (well, maybe for the pearls) but always showed my gratitude for my husband’s generosity. As time marched on and income became more discretionary, the drawers of my jewelry box started to fill up. With each new acquisition, it wasn’t the monetary value of the gem that impressed me but the act of kindness. I could picture my husband doing his last minute Christmas shopping to his favorite jeweler on a treasure hunt tying to find just the perfect gemstone to make me smile--a signature piece of jewelry that would last a lifetime, like our love was supposed to do.
My first reality check that the stones might lose their luster, happened five years into our marriage. I had broken my ring finger and the emergency room nurse had to cut off my wedding ring set to treat my injury. I left the emergency room with a sore ring finger and the symbol of our eternal love in a plastic baggie. The broken ring was fixed by the jeweler and my broken finger healed though time. During that time, I was sans ring, my left thumb would twitch up to check my ring finger knowing something was amiss. Friends and co-workers, who weren’t privy to the reason for the missing ring, asked me cautiously “Is everything okay?” I assured them my marriage was in tact, never realizing that this was a dress rehearsal for my fateful d-day.
At our ten year anniversary, my husband helped me pick out an anniversary band. I wanted a modest ban with channel set diamonds that I could wear for tennis, golf and swimming. And with living in Wisconsin, my hands often got cold in winter so my engagement diamond would slip and snag in my gloves. I cherished my anniversary band and wore it more often than my wedding ring. This was my second unintended abandonment of my wedding ring.
Though the years, different gem stones would mark off events in our marriage: the opal necklace to celebrate a graduation; the diamond earrings that were an unspoken apology for his infidelity; and the red garnets and green emerald pairs of earrings in celebration of Christmas. I wore each piece of my jewelry with a smugness, believing the sparkles were commensurate of my husband’s adoration for me.
I started to hide my jewelry when we went out of town shortly after we had two burglaries in my family. My mom’s house was broken into and they took her pearls that were a gift from my dad (now deceased), the mother’s ring from us kids and the locket from her mother. She didn’t cry at the loss, telling me she still had the good memories that the jewelry represented and that no one can steal that from her. Shortly thereafter, my niece shortly was also a victim of a burglary losing the sapphire ring her then finance, now husband, bought her in Greece and the ruby band he bought her on her honeymoon. She was sad but expressed she was thankful to have her husband, who provided her with much more sparkle than any stone could provide.
After my husband left me for another woman, I was left to decide what to do with my jewelry box and contents. The anniversary band was tossed off a castle roof top in Ireland, as my law school friends helped me toast my marriage and move on. My niece teases me some pregnant Irish lassie will stumble upon it someday and find it to be an answer from God, assuring her a husband will claim her. The stars were sparkling that night but there was no glimmer on the diamonds. My engagement ring and wedding band were tossed into my fireplace after I toasted my husband and marriage goodbye with my high school friends. I reminded them that love can burn intensely like this fire, but it can easily waver diminish and eventually extinguish. And while the diamond might survive the heat, just like a marriage can survive a storm, it will lose its luster.
I no longer hide the rest of my jewels when I travel out of town. Those stones I have left from my husband will be shared with nieces. I tried to sell them but there is no market for used jewelry. I need to fill the drawers and plan to purchase a friendship ring to commerate my wonderful friends who saw me though my marital crisis. Other jewelry in my box includes a cherish Colatta ring from my Irish mother and beaded artworks made by my friends’ kids. My left hand is unadorned and I still panic from time to time when it feels so unnaturally naked.
As far as the jewelry box, I have decided to save it and start using it again. It reminds me not of the money my husband spent on jewelry, but of a cherished time in our marriage where he did love me and he was content to spend hours and hours to make something special for me. A time he didn’t roam, when he wasn’t unhappy--a time when he was content to sit at his workbench, in our home, and work on projects and a time when he put me first.
As far as my left hand, someday I might receive another diamond ring, but I now know the ring will not mean forever. It will represent today and only today. It will be a stone that sparkles, and if I had to choose between the sparkle and the stone, I’ll take the sparkle.