I am a reasonable person. A rational one, perfectly capable of living within my means, making wise spending decisions and investing for the future. While growing up in the Soviet Union now seems like an old black-and-white movie, it has instilled in me the basics of saving for the rainy day, being (reasonably) frugal, and not coveting my neighbor’s anything. With the exception of a penchant for collecting dresses, I am far from a big spender – I don’t even have a car! I scoff at Christmas frenzy and even my first wedding was an elopement at the mayor’s office, followed by a small party put together entirely by the well-meaning family members.
So when my now-fiance surprised me with a proposal and a silver gemstone ring, I assumed that the ring was “it”. Josh was quick to explain that the ring was a “placeholder” for the one I would pick myself.
“That makes no sense,” I said. “How can I pick a ring if you are paying for it? That makes me feel bad…unless I pick whatever I want and also pay?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said simply. “You are not paying for your own ring!”
I agreed, but the uncomfortable feeling did not go away. Josh has a mortgage of his own, major repairs, plus in addition to all of the upcoming engagement and wedding costs, he is about to join the fire brigade – a dream that would see him risk his life for a drastically smaller salary. He can hardly wait, which is a fascinating paradox for another post.
After much back and forth and musing over the whole “two months’ salary” myth, I convinced him that at least the ring does not have to be a diamond.
“I want an aquamarine,” I said, “like your beautiful blue eyes.”
He agreed. I am really good at constructing convincing arguments, which are even more powerful when delivered in bed, preferably in the nude.
“You have to love it,” he warned me. “You’re going to look at it for a very long time. I’m not cheaping out on this.”
So it was with this profound feeling of being a reasonable person, unaffected by De Beers advertising campaigns and well-meaning old ladies, that I decided to pop into a jewellery store on my way to the gym.
“Do you have any aquamarine engagement rings?” I asked the attendant.
Not the kind of question a “diamond specialist” wants to hear, but I was wearing one of my overpriced business dresses, so she was more than willing to bring few rings over.
“I’m looking for a simple little number,” I said, waving away Princess Diana-like clusters of huge stones surrounded by halos of diamonds.
She showed me one, an aquamarine oval with two small diamonds on each side. I snickered at the diamonds and their potentially bloody past and slipped the ring on.
The next few seconds I remember as if in a slow motion. The diamonds caught rays of sunshine streaming through the windows and bounced them onto the blue stone, lighting it up as if from within. I stared at my hand for what must have been ages, until the sales woman’s voice snapped me from my reverie.
“Beautiful, isn’t it,” she smiled, sensing a sale.
“How much?” I asked breathlessly.
“Just $2,200”, she said.
I hate when sales people of any kind put “just” in front of the price. I don’t care if it’s a cup of coffee or a car, that’s my money and the separation from it hurts. In this case, it was Josh’s money and it hurt even worse.
I thanked her and left, certain that the temporary insanity I felt while looking at sparkling stones of questionable value was indeed temporary. I went to the gym and almost forgot about the ring, until it beckoned me from the window on the way back. I snapped a photo and sent it to my sister.
“It’s not you,” was her instant reply. “You are more square.”
She was right, of course, everything in my apartment is square, from the layout to dinner plates. She suggested more shopping and I agreed. What a great excuse for some sisterly bonding. Nothing at all to do with putting more sparklies on my fingers.
At least for now, I will spare you the weeks of insanity that followed. Each of the jewellery store visits was worthy of a short story by itself. True to form, I had to start a spreadsheet just to keep up with the number of jewelers and wholesalers, the specs, the designs, and of course – the costs. I am baffled as to how it happened, but somehow the aquamarine got upgraded to a sapphire, and the two side diamonds into a whole halo of them. I managed to resist the urge to stick more diamonds on the band. Such restraint…
I’m afraid of this inner Bridezilla…I have not even taken her shopping for a wedding dress yet. Something tells me it will not be a “simple little number”.