Diamonds and Rust by
200
(281 Stories)

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My house is the first thing that comes to mind that is older than I am. It was built in 1946, which is not very old by East Coast standards, but is old by California standards, and five years older than I am. When we were looking for a house to buy, back in 1992, I only had a few requirements, but one of them was that the house had to be older than I was. Nothing built in the Fifties or later was acceptable. What were my other requirements? It had to be two stories, with four bedrooms, a two-car garage, a fireplace, and a swimming pool. And I got them all. The hardest one to satisfy was the two stories – the vast majority of houses around here are one story.

I walked around the house looking for antiques. We have a few, but I don't own any of them. However the house is older than I am.

I didn’t inherit any antiques from my parents, as so many of you did. They were not antique collectors, and any furniture I might have wanted was too cumbersome to move to California. I did get three pieces of art, but I’m not sure how old they are.

I do have two other possessions that are older than I am, which I value greatly. They are the two diamond rings that I wear all the time. One was my grandmother’s, and the other was my husband’s grandmother’s.

For many years I was adamantly opposed to wearing diamonds, for political reasons. Knowing about the DeBeers Mining Company, their monopoly on diamonds, and their history in South Africa and connection to apartheid made them unpalatable. If diamonds were mined by oppressed and disenfranchised black workers, I certainly didn’t want anything to do with them. With each of my prospective husbands, I made it clear that I did not want a diamond ring. But then a couple of things changed. Apartheid came to an end in the 1990s, and the conditions in South Africa began to improve. And then in about 2006, the third of my three previous engagement-type rings, which all had opals for their stones, cracked. This had happened with my earlier opals as well, because opals are just too soft to be in a ring that is worn all the time. Diamonds, the hardest naturally occurring substance on earth, suddenly seemed like a better alternative.

Diamond from Russia

I wondered if our family had any extra diamond rings lying around, and asked my mother. She said that she had two diamond rings that had been my grandmother’s. The diamonds had been smuggled out of Russia when my grandmother and her parents left, probably along with other gems, sewn into the hem of their garments, and then set into rings in this country. She offered to bring them both to my daughter Sabrina’s graduation from Wells College in May 2007, and I could take my pick. So this is the one I chose. It originally had two little sapphires on either side of the diamond, but one of them was missing, so we ended up having the diamond reset. Not sure what I did with the remaining sapphire, but I’m sure I have it somewhere.

More diamonds

I’m not sure whether it was before or after I acquired my grandmother’s ring, but around the same time, my husband and I went to the bank and opened our safe deposit box, either to put something in or take something out. While we were in the little room that they give you to look at your box in private, we started checking out what else was in there. I saw this ring, which has little diamonds all the way around it, and decided to try it on. It fit perfectly! I asked my husband where it had come from, and whether there was a story behind it. He knew that it had been his maternal grandmother’s wedding ring (she was the Molly after whom our daughter Molly is named), but didn’t know any more. He asked if I wanted to wear it, and I said yes. I would love to say that he got down on one knee and proposed to me all over again while slipping it on my finger, but I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen. However, that’s how it will go in the movie version!

Books

Finally, I also have some children’s books from the early 20th century which are very dear to me, as discussed in Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, and my mother’s copy of Gone With the Wind from 1937 that is almost a First Edition. “Almost” doesn’t make for a very good story though.

Profile photo of Suzy Suzy


Characterizations: been there, funny, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. John Shutkin says:

    What a great idea to include your home in this story. And I love that you had made that a house buying requirement. I can also resonate to your comment about the relatively young age of California houses since one of the first things my California-bred roomie mentioned to me freshman year was his amazement at how old all the houses were in Cambridge. (He grew up in a house designed by his father, an architect.)

    I also love both of your diamond stories, though understand your reluctance to wear diamonds. (Neither of my wives ever expressed such a sentiment, and it is too late for me to raise the point.) And I can’t wait for the movie version of the diamond presentation from your husband. May I also suggest that when he gives it to you, you both decide that you will name your daughter Molly. It just makes it all sound even more Hollywood.

    Finally, do I get any bonus points for recognizing the Joan Baez song of your title?

    • Suzy says:

      Love the Hollywood suggestion. In real life, Molly was born in 1996, and the safe deposit box incident was in about 2007, but it doesn’t have to be that way in the movie.

      You always get bonus points when you predict my song title. I’ll have to check with Price Waterhouse about whether you get any points for just recognizing it.

  2. I really related to your story. Our first house was built in 1906. It had wonderful charm and a lovely front porch with a swing. My husband could never appreciate it and was always concerned about having to fix things.

    I also had an issue with diamond rings. My husband had 2 uncles who were jewelers, and I could have had quite a gem when we got engaged. But I thought diamonds, along with the association of exploited workers in South Africa , were too bourgeois! How stupid was that decision?

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Your house requirements are so interesting, Suzy. And you are lucky that you were able to meet all of them, including buying one that is older than you! It looks like a very comfortable house and I’m sure the pool comes in handy with all the heat the country is experiencing these days.

    Your diamond story is amazing. The grandmother’s diamond is absolutely gorgeous! What a treasure and how lucky that she was able to get it out of Russia and it is now yours. And I love the story of Ed’s grandmother’s circlet wedding band fitting you perfectly. The movie version sounds perfect, down on one knee and all. I’m sure the two rings looks amazing together.

    Now that I think of it, I have my mother’s 2nd edition of “Gone With the Wind”, printed one month after the 1st. As you say, ALMOST doesn’t make a very good story. I ALMOST made a lot of money from it…almost.

    • Suzy says:

      I tried to take a photo of the two rings together on my finger, but couldn’t get one that looked good. If I had thought about this prompt when I was visiting you last month, I would have made a point of showing you the rings.

      Both of our mothers came so close to having a First Edition of GWTW. If only they had gone to the bookstore a little bit sooner!

  4. Marian says:

    The diamonds are gorgeous, Suzy, and I’m glad that circumstances have changed and you can wear them. That’s unlike the beautiful ivory bead bracelet from my paternal grandmother (which I’d forgotten about until I read your story), which I don’t want to wear. Understand about houses in California and glad you found one that met your requirements. In the 1990s I owned a house that was older than I, built in 1950, and it was really cool and very well constructed. Unfortunately I couldn’t afford to renovate it, sold it, and moved to a condo with not as much character.

    • Suzy says:

      Mare, I suppose you could wear the ivory bead bracelet and tell people it is plastic. Don’t know if that would work or not. I have my mother’s beautiful mink coat too (not older than I am, so not in this story), which I am afraid to wear because some animal rights person might throw paint on me!

  5. I thought about someday getting a diamond ring. When one of the the uncles died who was a jeweler, my husband inherited his deceased wife’s ring. I tried it on and felt slightly uncomfortable wearing the ring. Was it because diamond rings are associated with engagement, and mine had long past, or was it because I still had some residual negative feelings about diamonds? In any case, my son was getting engaged and he gave it to his bride. The marriage didn’t last very long and, of course, she kept the ring. So I was left with 2 regrets……still not having a diamond ring and giving it away to an ex-daughter-law!

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    I love your rings and am glad you now get pleasure from wearing them. My mother was always upset that a male cousin gave her mother’s diamond ring to a woman who broke off their engagement but kept the ring. She made me promise I would give hers to a female granddaughter or great granddaughter. When my youngest daughter remarried, I was so touched that she wanted that ring, which was quite modest compared to the one from her first marriage. I also have my mother’s copy of Little Women. Wish I had thought to put that in my story.

    • Suzy says:

      How upsetting not to get the ring back from the broken engagement! I thought the etiquette was that you DID give the ring back. Glad your youngest daughter wanted your mother’s ring, that way you know it will stay in the family.

  7. Susan Bennet says:

    You certainly brought the women on this thread out with your diamond ring(s) story, Suzy. There is just something sacred about the passing down of these emblems of marriage and love. While I too have (two) rings from my maternal forebears, I like the story associated with what would have been ring # 3, which had been put in a teacup when it was broken and was subsequently lost during a house move. I would rather think some nice woman got it than it had been lost in the trash.

    May I say, more than diamonds, antiques et al, your “old” swimming pool would be the most precious to me. Years of joy, frolics and health!

  8. Khati Hendry says:

    I was impressed that you had all those requirements for your house–but you certainly got a good spot! It is nice that you are able to use the old jewelry, as it is a shame for it to just sit around. And of course it holds the memories. BTW Diamonds and Rust maybe my favorite Baez song, even though the poetry may be lousy in parts.

    • Suzy says:

      Yes, we still love the house after 30 years. We haven’t used the fireplace in years though. I’m happy to be wearing the jewelry. We gave my grandmother’s second diamond ring to my son Ben to give to his girlfriend when they got engaged a few months ago. Neither of my daughters wanted it.

      Diamonds and Rust is definitely one of my favorite Baez songs. I don’t find any of the poetry lousy, I think it is great throughout. Especially when you know who she is singing about!

  9. Thanx for this sweet story Suzy. Your house looks and sounds beautiful indeed!
    And I understand your past aversion to diamonds and how it was resolved.

  10. Suzy,
    Too bad your mother didn’t leave you a First Edition, First Printing (May 1936) of GWTW, signed by author, in fine condition, w Mitchell family correspondence, and first state dust jacket; one of those is offered at $19,535. on abebooks. Unfortunately the price plummets from there, and when you get to the 1937 printings, of which there were many (as the Old South captured the reading public’s yearning for a “simpler” time), your sale price won’t likely pay for a plantation tour (by way of reference, a senior ticket to the Boone Hall plantation in Charleston, which includes nine original slave dwellings, and an outdoor history talk, costs $25.).

    • Suzy says:

      Jon, thanks for doing that research on GWTW editions. In May 1936 my mother would have been a senior in high school, so I guess that’s why she didn’t get it until 1937, when she was in college. I still treasure her copy, though – it’s the one I read when I was in high school. If it had been valuable (or if she had known it was valuable) she might not have wanted me to handle it.

    • During the war my dad was stationed in Charleston which was a port of embarkation.
      I was born there in ‘44 and we lived there until he was separated from the Army in ‘46.

      Visiting years later we took the plantation tour.
      The city was beautiful but the tour and the Slave Market museum were unsettling to say the least.

  11. Loved your wishlist for your house, Suzy. And you got all of them! Good, clear description of the diamond horrorshow. King Leopold’s ghosts!

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