Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Inherited diamonds… betroth them, or not?

Granny’s 3 carat diamond ring.

Granny’s 3 carat diamond ring.

More than once in my career as a goldsmith I have been unwillingly appointed to be the advisor to a mother’s emotionally painful decision to present or not to present their departed mother’s or grandmother’s most precious treasure… her diamond ring, to her beloved son for him to betroth the inherited engagement instrument to the love of his life. The new fiancée to be or not to be may be loved by all but…

This is a family heirloom and when purchased many decades ago cost $900 of grandpa’s hard earned money. That diamond in this day and age has ten times the value and one has to ponder the complications of such an emotional transaction.

The mother’s concern was what will happen to the diamond if things don’t work out? We all know the odds; most present day marriages actually end in divorce before they get to use the toaster received as a wedding gift. But honestly, if they break up what happens to Gramma’s ring? The family could lose the cherished ring forever!

I have never professed to be an expert on the ways of love and marriage though I have been around the block a few times, O.K. So I am at least an experienced expert on diamonds!

My advice, first and foremost are there are no guarantees in love and life and I would consider it awfully tacky to tell the bride to be that if things don’t work out between you and junior the ring has to be returned to the family, a pre-nup could be useful here. Besides, legally in most states the engagement ring is considered a gift and the bride is not obliged to return it if the marriage results in a proverbial train wreck.

Interestingly enough, some states would consider it is a breach of a marriage contract if things go sour and it would require the unhappy bride to return the ring to the besmirched groom. Oh… what a tangled web we weave!

My next question to Mom is why not let the “little man” buy his own diamond? Surely he can afford to buy the love of his life a smaller yet perfect diamond? Mom’s answer… he can’t afford anything.  Hmm. Fact, her son can’t afford to buy his own diamond for his wife to be and wants grandma’s ring; in my eyes this is a bad case of “fundsalow” this marriage is doomed from the start.  My assessment… Mom keep Mom’s ring.

For those of you that think I am being a bit heartless, take it from experience, I own two busy jewelry stores on Marco Island, I know who is getting engaged or married before Mom, Dad or their closest friends know. I am also the first one they come to when the song “breaking up is hard to do” starts playing in their heads and I hear the words I dread at my showcase “I would like to return this engagement ring and these two wedding bands please.” I chuckle and say “sorry my policy is no way. Save them for the next romantic debacle.”

If I took back every diamond ring that “doesn’t shine anymore” or sentimentally engraved wedding bands that profess
“I will love you forever baby” I would have to have filed chapter eleven ten years ago!

My strict policy on engraving wedding bands is paid in full and  non returnable, I got burned enough times in the past, more than I care to admit. Sometimes one of the love muffins gets cold feet, and then the wedding is off! And I’m out thousands of dollars on custom wedding bands; who’s sorry now?

In a nutshell, unless you are willing to accept the loss of something so irreplaceable as a beloved heirloom don’t offer it in the first place, take a wait and see attitude, if things progress happily, such as a long tranquil marriage and even grandchildren you will know when the time is right to pass on that special diamond. Jeez! I think I’ve missed my calling; I should open a pre-nup diamond advisory service.

“A friend is a treasure more precious than gold, for love shared is priceless and never grows old.”

Richard Alan is a master goldsmith/designer with over forty years’ experience at his craft and the owner of The Harbor Goldsmith of Marco Island where he and his staff have been creating and repairing fine jewelry for over 15 years. He welcomes your questions about all things that glitter. 239.394.9275.

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