Sunday, September 12, 2010

THE LORD OF THE RINGS

When my husband proposed to me 39 years ago, he didn't even have a ring for me. I guess he figured he wouldn't risk spending any money until he was absolutely certain I'd say yes.

After I agreed to marry him, we headed straight to a jewelry store in the Bedford Mall. As I was excitedly looking at all of the diamonds, I couldn’t help but notice that my husband-to-be was staring at something in a nearby jewelry case. When I held up my hand, sporting a diamond the size of a doorknob and asked him what he thought of it, he didn't even glance at it. He just mumbled, "Yeah, that's nice" and continued to stare into the other case.

Finally, I asked him what was so interesting.

"Those wedding bands right there," he said, pointing at two really wide, really thick gold bands. They looked as if they’d been hacked off a piece of brass pipe. "Aren't they fantastic?"

"Fantastic" wasn't exactly the word I'd have used to describe the rings. I critically eyed the two chunks of gold and wanted to tell him I preferred dainty rings, not something that looked as if it should be holding a dinner napkin, but I held my tongue. "They're really nice," I said, though not at all convincingly.

"Well, I love them!" he practically gushed. "They're so different, so solid looking, not some wimpy little bands like most of them are. I think we should get them."

Reluctantly, I tried on the band. It came all the way up to my knuckle. I could barely bend my finger. Even worse, it was so thick, I couldn't close my fingers. "Where would I fit the engagement ring?" I asked. "The band is so wide, it takes up my whole finger! "

My husband smiled. "If we get these rings, you won't need an engagement ring. This will be all the ring you'll ever need!"

That was an understatement. It was all the ring about 10 people would ever need. If it were melted down, I figured it could make rings for an entire neighborhood. Not only that, when I wore it, there certainly would be no doubt in anyone's mind that I was married. The ring probably could be spotted by passengers in planes flying overhead.

Before I could utter an opinion, my husband, grinning with satisfaction, bought the wedding bands…and no engagement ring.

Within a year after getting married and having the pleasure of wearing my chunky wedding band 24 hours a day, my ring finger was peeling so much, I felt like an iguana. The problem was that no air was able to get underneath the thick gold, so my skin constantly was damp and raw. Before my finger rotted off, I decided I’d better have a heart-to-heart talk with my husband.

"I was wondering if maybe I could trade in this band for a more dainty wedding-ring set?" I dared to ask. "I honestly can't wear it any more. It's really uncomfortable and my finger is always raw."

Had I told him I was running off to the Bahamas with the plumber, he couldn't have looked more shocked. "But if you buy another wedding band," he said, "it won't be official!"

I had no idea what he was talking about.

"We put these rings on each other's hands at the altar," he explained. "That made them official wedding bands. Before that, they were just plain bands. Any rings we buy now won't be official!"

"I don't care about being official!" I said. "I care about comfort. I haven't been able to close my fingers since our wedding day! Admit it – you're not comfortable wearing yours, either."

He hesitated for a few moments then said, "Well, no, I'm not comfortable, but I'm willing to suffer because of what the ring stands for!"

Just what I needed – a ring martyr. "Even if it gives you a bad case of athlete's finger?" I asked.

He rolled his eyes and shook his head, so I decided to drop the subject.

A few months later, I was in Montgomery Ward and just happened to pass through their fine jewelry department. There, I spotted a beautiful diamond solitaire ring with a matching band that had a row of tiny diamonds across the front. I instantly was in love.

Coincidentally, about that same time there was an ad in the paper about some company in search of gold and silver that was coming to one of the local hotels and was willing to pay big cash for unwanted jewelry. I rushed right over there.

I walked out with three times the money my husband originally had paid for the band…and then I headed straight to Montgomery Ward.

Funny, but my husband never mentioned the new rings when I started wearing them, and he continued to wear his band until his finger nearly developed gangrene. Finally, for his birthday one year, I decided to be brave and bought him a much thinner band with the Irish Claddagh symbol (his favorite symbol) on it. He actually looked relieved when he opened it.

"Well, it's really nice…so I'll wear it," he said, "even though it’s not an 'official' wedding band. But unlike you, I’m never going to part with my original ring because it has a lot of sentimental value."

He put the original band into a box in his drawer and never wore it again. With all of the gold it contained, I was surprised he didn’t store it at Fort Knox.

Last week, I brought some old, worn-out silver coins from the 1960s to Concord Coin and came home with $685. The owner of the shop told me he also was paying the highest prices around for gold.

When my husband saw my wad of cash, he went to his dresser drawer and took out his precious original wedding band. "Maybe we should find out how much we can get for this," he said.

So much for sentiment.