Thursday, January 27, 2022

Saving Nana’s ring



Not long ago I spent an hour trying to convince a very determined young woman accompanied by her mother not to tear apart a diamond ring she had recently inherited.

“But I don’t like it!” she cried. “Itwas a ring that belonged to her grandmother who had recently passed away and bestowed to her only granddaughter who she obviously loved very much. But this ungrateful young lady was adamant on removing the antique cut diamonds and resetting them into something “new.”

This was not my first heirloom rodeo; not the first of these sticky inherited jewelry situations. I am often faced with this emotional and sometimes frustrating scenario, and the guarded expression on the mother’s face told a thousand stories.

First and foremost, I regard my craft a dying art and I admire and adore irreplaceable pieces of art, especially a handcrafted turn of the 20th century Tiffany platinum and diamond ring in almost new condition.

Sooo! I am the last person on this planet that will even consider destroying a perfectly wearable antique ring, unless it is beyond my restoration skills, which is a very rare occasion.

This Pre-Madonna’s first reaction to me was: who does this jerk think he is disagreeing with me! Her second opinion…  he’s nuts. (That may be true, most goldsmiths are! Something to do with the fumes from the gases and chemicals we breathe in each day in the workshop that can cause memory loss.) Now, where was I? Oh yes, back to the island princess, she was getting downright angry at me for my refusal to do a dismantling number on that ring.

The fact is it makes no sense for me or any other jeweler with a conscience to ruin an expensive diamond masterpiece. Also… Experience has taught me it’s a sure bet that when Missy finally wakes up and realizes she destroyed an irreplaceable family heirloom, she will come back with tears rolling down her face, begging  me to put the diamonds back into the ring and restore it to its original condition which is virtually impossible. Once you  dismantle an antique diamond ring, in most cases it’s gone forever.

I then reached my threshold of patience.

Ladies! Can we talk here? Let’s



save a lot of pain and anguish (So far on my behalf!) This ring is so in style right now. Most newlyweds would kill to wear this! Let me clean and polish it so you can see it from another perspective. I know a hundred antique jewelers who would pay a handsome fee for the shunned ring I was holding in my hand.

I’ve heard it all: “It’s too old looking” or “too flashy,” “it’s too big” or “too small,” “I only wear gold,” or my favorite: “It’s just not me!” Of course it’s not you, but it was something to your grandmother and that should mean something.

The young woman was still staring at me in disbelief that I was not going to be a part of her destructive intentions. I then presented her with the cleaned and polished heirloom, and it was truly a magnificent piece. Sprucing up the ring changed her tune and she decided to leave Nana’s ring alone. It only needed to be sized to fit her finger and I told her to be ready for the compliments and envious glances once her friends see that ring. She will some day realize that  her own daughter or granddaughter will enjoy that very same ring for years to come and, who knows, maybe even thank me for talking her out of losing something very special forever.

I consider heirlooms, whether jewelry or whatever, a family’s history; that is something that should be preserved and treasured; and shame on any person who redesigns or alters a gift from a loved one who has passed on (unless it’s really ugly!)

Well, after my fire and brimstone sermon, the young lady agreed to let me only size the ring and check the security of the diamonds. I could swear I heard a disembodied sigh of relief… was Grandma’s spirit in the room watching this drama unfold? The last thing I remembered was seeing a tearful silent smile of appreciation from her mother as they left the shop.

Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith and the owner of The Harbor Goldsmith’s of Marco Island and welcomes your questions about “all that glitters’ 239-394-9275

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