I first saw it two years ago on a friend’s finger: a jumble of dainty stones set in a rose-gold band, the whorls and veins of which resembled a twig’s. “Oh my God, that ring,” I said. It was odd, elegant. Rarely had something material felt so very me.
“It’s from Steven Alan,” she said. I didn’t know the store. I’m fashion-agnostic — a Target, Loft, and sale-section-of-Anthro girl — but from the brand’s website I learned the ring contained 11 diamonds and cost $900. I bookmarked the page and visited often, in a manner most pointless—even if I could spare $900 (I couldn’t), spending it on a piece of jewelry would’ve been unconscionable. I pay Manhattan rent. I have student loans.
The most expensive pieces of jewelry I’ve ever owned were the engagement and wedding rings from my ex-husband, which cost a combined $1,500. The former was a simple solitaire. The wedding band featured an orderly march of diamonds: two round stones, a baguette, two round stones again, etc. Its centermost pair of diamonds sat beneath the engagement ring’s stone; the combined effect was that of a penis and two faithful testicles.
That husband and I were married ten years, and then we weren’t, and then I met Kevin. By the time I scoped my friend’s finger, Kevin and I had been together one wild year, a fast-forward tour of love that rocketed from first date to cohabitation in five months. We knew we’d get married. It was just a happy fact, ambient as air. And as people who share their home tend to do, I blathered the minutiae of my life at him: “Did you see so-and-so’s Instagram?” “We’re out of hand soap.” “Today I saw the most gorgeous ring.” We passed a Steven Alan in Venice, California; we dined at Jacob’s Pickles, near the brand’s Upper West Side outpost; we went to Chelsea Market, near yet another Steven Alan. “Hey,” I’d say each time, “that’s where that ring lives!”
One morning, I logged on to visit the bauble that I knew, deep down, would never actually be mine. Months had passed; I still didn’t have, or feel any better about spending, all that money. The ring’s page, it seemed, was not found. I opened a new tab and Googled, breathless, reaching the now-cached page only by leaving the site. I emailed customer service. The kindly agent said a single ring was left at the Chelsea store. Who knew how long it would remain—or if I could outlive the regret of letting it go.
“Gonna buy it on credit after work,” I texted Kevin.
“Whoa, OK,” he answered, seeming somehow tentative, forlorn. Immediately I understood: I’d ruined his plans. “Full disclosure,” he wrote, “I’d planned to buy it.”
Once in a while, a certain cognitive fog clears and the obvious finally coheres for the dope who should’ve caught on sooner. What I mean is that I then texted Kevin, “How about I buy it and give it to you to ‘propose’ to me with?” I’d get the ring; we’d still get a proposal. He loved the idea. We became giddy. This was genius! Egalitarian, pragmatic, mutually beneficial! I told him to meet me at Steven Alan at six. Because he’s Kevin, he replied with a photo of Tonight Show creator Steve Allen.
The only downside to this plan was that then, of course, I couldn’t wear the ring right away; I had to wait until the proposal.
But when it happened, eight months later, beside a tall Egyptian obelisk in an out-of-the-way Roman plaza, I was very happy to see it again.
*This article appears in the summer 2018 issue of New York Weddings.