As you've probably gathered from us by now, Alex and I are suckers for all things old. Not only do we have an intense appreciation for things that have withstood the test of time (like our 125 year old house), but we like to honor and preserve their history. The same can be said for our feeling toward family heirlooms, and this weekend I lost the heirloom most precious to me -- Alex's grandmother's diamond that was given to me on my wedding day. Unfortunately, unlike yesterday's post, this is not an April Fool's Day joke.
Here's the backstory. Alex's maternal grandmother passed away in 2000 while we were in college. In her passing, she left a small five stone gold mother's ring to my mother-in-law as one of the few items in her estate. My mother-in-law has no real interest in or attachment to jewelry (crazy!), and despite inheriting this piece knew she would never wear it. At one point she actually suggested to Alex that he try to sell it on eBay. Alex knew we were unlikely to get anything substantial for the ring, and anyone purchasing it would probably just buy it for the single diamond that was set as one of the five stones.
If you're not familiar with this sort of ring, each stone in the setting represents the birth stone of each child in the family. Alex's mother is one of five, and I believe the sixth stone represents his grandmother's birth stone.
Around the time we began looking at engagement rings back in 2001, Alex's mom generously offered Alex his grandmother's "mother's ring". Back when I learned she might sell it on eBay, I was shocked, so the fact it was given to Alex was a huge relief to me, although it wasn't my style in the least bit. Rather than simply let it sit, I suggested that maybe we could have the diamond in the mother's ring reset as part of my future engagement ring.
Alex loved the idea, and built my engagement ring around this .40 carat stone. He carefully researched and purchased a new center stone and a matching sidetone (based on the mother's ring appraisal information) to create a beautiful, three stone engagement ring. The only problem? When he took the three stones to a jeweler to have them set in a ring, the jeweler took one look at the heirloom stone and pointed out that the appraisal on Alex's grandmother's diamond was incorrect in both the size and color of the stone. He showed Alex that setting this lower quality stone in the new engagement ring with two nicer stones would only highlight the "poor" stone, and would throw the whole ring off. Although he was rather dejected, Alex decided to instead purchase a new third stone for my engagement ring. Undeterred from making his grandmother's stone into something more special, he decided to have his grandmother's stone made into a necklace which was his gift to me on our wedding day.
The day of our wedding Alex presented me with this lovely bezel set diamond necklace, passed down from his grandmother. To say I loved this necklace does not do it justice. I've worn it nearly every day for the last ten years, and each time I looked at it in the mirror, or touched it while it was hanging around my neck, I was reminded of the memories of our beautiful wedding and how lucky I am to have such a wonderful man in my life. Over the years, this necklace has become a part of me, and I routinely check it to ensure it's still around my neck, that the clasp hasn't shifted forward, and that the diamond is in place.
Here I am, wearing my necklace, on the day we rescued Oliver. Yes, he was trying to bite me. :-)
This past weekend we were invited to spend two nights with our friend and neighbor at her home on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. We had a wonderful homemade dinner on Friday night of fresh local crab cakes, great wine, and the fantastic company of she and her boyfriend. Saturday we ate a leisurely breakfast and decided that the three of us would spend the day antique shopping in and around St. Michael's, MD, and other quaint local towns. As I prepared to leave, I gave one final glance in the bathroom mirror, straightened my diamond necklace, and I was on my way.
We had a great day, to say the least. We hit more than 10 antique stores, went to lunch, explored several towns, traipsed along country roads to check out local sites, and more. Tired from the busy day, I came home and took a fantastic weekend nap and woke to get ready for dinner. The problem was, this time when I looked into the mirror, my necklace was there but was vacant and no longer sparking. The diamond that had been part of Alex's grandmother's ring, the stone he had specially turned into a wedding day gift, the one true connection I had to Alex's grandmother who I never had the chance to meet was absent from its permanent setting. I noticed it immediately as it's something I always check...but the problem was that it had been hours and multiple towns since I had last seen it.
I yelled for Alex to come upstairs and immediately burst into tears. We spent hours looking for it -- in the car, in my purse, in the house, in the gravel driveway. I crawled around the house like an infant, on all fours, crying and combing the rugs as I hoped for the necessary stroke of luck that would allow one of us to find the missing bauble. Despite stumbling on a few pieces of glitter that falsely elevated my hopes, I came up empty handed.
When I posted the news on Facebook this weekend, a college friend asked if it was insured, and pointed out I could use the money to get something new. True, perhaps, but I'm not interested in something new, I'm interesting in this small and somewhat insignificant jewel that I've attached a tremendous amount of personal importance to. Yes, the necklace is insured under our homeowner's policy, but given the quality and size of the stone, it's probably not worth paying the deductible to "replace" it. But that is certainly not the point.
I'm angry at myself for not having the setting checked more regularly. To say I'm devastated would be an understatement. I feel a profound sense of loss. I feel like I'm mourning a part of our family history that I can never regain. I can't one day pass this family heirloom down to someone else in our family that would love and appreciate it the way I have.
Here I am -- with a friend, an Australian dessert, and my necklace -- on my 28th birthday.
And so here I am -- slowly having to come to terms with the fact that it's gone forever. I suppose I would rather have enjoyed it everyday for ten years, than to keep it stashed away in a safe deposit box somewhere, never to see the light of day or to be a part of my life. I will have the memories I created while I was wearing it forever, but this bare feeling around my neck is sure is going to take some getting used to. I find myself, out of habit, reaching up to ensure its safety, only to be reminded of its tragic fate.
On vacation in Napa Valley with the one and only necklace I packed for the trip.
We've called around to the various places we stopped on the fateful day, leaving pleading and probably downright odd messages on the answering machines in the off chance the stone is found. I highly doubt we'll ever see it again, but I'd really love to be surprised. If it's meant to be, the stone will somehow make its way back into my life.
Update (4/12/2012): Our friend was kind enough to vacuum her home the day we left, and then painfully sifted through the debris in her vacuum bag. We were deliriously cautiously optimistic when she called to let us know she found what appeared to be my diamond in her vacuum! We studied the photo she sent to us and held our breath for nearly a week until she returned to Alexandria. Sadly, upon closer inspection the diamond appeared to be more of a crystal, and was too small for the setting. :-(
Have you had to deal with the loss of a family heirloom or treasure, whether by theft, fire, natural disaster, or just plain bad luck? Or, on a happier note, did you find something that you were sure was lost forever? I'd love to hear all about it, if only to make me feel like I'm not alone or like I have a little bit of hope.