Grandma Bea’s Secret
One of the things that make heritage rings so special are the stories behind them, particularly any family drama that they come to represent. In the case of speech-language pathologist Brett and her oncologist husband Paul, the engagement ring is a reminder of a figure that looms large in the family history– Grandma Bea of Far Rockaway. Brett’s dad’s mom, Grandma Bea was a formidable presence is her family and her community, a queen bee (see what we did there?) who held court from her sitting room.
Bea had a complicated relationship with her son, and her sometimes overwhelming personality might have been one factor in his choice for a wife. The woman he picked–Brett’s mom–was “an outspoken ‘60s liberal with a jew-’fro and an attitude.” Bea didn’t much like this hippy girl, and was not shy about expressing it. The mother and son didn’t talk for a few years.
But once Brett was born, Grandma Bea wanted to repair the relationship. Soon the child was the darling of the Far Rockaway set, spending weekends with Bea and her friends. Bea often gave Brett little gifts, but she saved one special gift for the future, the exact nature of which she wouldn’t say, no matter how much Brett asked.
Only when Grandma Bea got sick and passed away was the mystery solved. The gift was a diamond ring that came from her great-grandmother in Poland. Brett never found out too much about the ring–only that Bea and her sisters had argued over who would get it. “One sister only had boys,” she says “So I guess Bea didn’t want it to pass down to any of the women the sons married, which would have taken it out of the family.”
Diamond in the Sushi
Fast forward a few years and Paul has entered the scene. A poor, debt-saddled med student at the time, Paul couldn’t afford a nice ring with which to make his proposal. But he had hit the engagement jackpot with Brett: a beautiful woman with a heritage ring just waiting to be put on her finger. “Thankfully Brett had this big diamond from her family,” he says, “though it was in a kind of banged up old setting.”
“I decided to surprise Brett for the proposal at a local sushi restaurant that we loved in Denver,” says Paul. He gave the ring to the manager and asked him to present it in a sushi platter that he and Brett were going to order later that night.When the sushi came, the ring was there, neatly tucked between two pieces of purple cabbage. “Everyone in the restaurant was in on it. She didn’t see it as first, but then she did and I got down on my knee and proposed. She said yes and then I stood up on the chair and shouted ‘A toast to love!’ and everyone in the restaurant cheered. It was a great surprise for Brett.”
Part of Brett’s surprise was that Paul had entrusted her precious family ring to a complete stranger, a fact that probably still has Grandma Bea spinning in her grave. After the proposal, “we walked down the block to a Mexican restaurant, where I had a group of our close friends meet to surprise her. We drank a bunch of margaritas and had a great time, then spent the night at this amazing hotel…the Brown Palace in Denver. All in all a great night.”
A Change of Setting
The diamond on Grandma Bea’s ring was beautiful, but the same couldn’t be said for the vintage setting. “It was weird. Very thin and fragile looking–it looked like a paper clip,” says Brett. They started looking for a new setting, and ended up with custom ringmaker John Atencio, who set the diamond in a minimalist industrial, band, with the diamond flush with the bevels. “I liked the contrast,” says Brett, “Almost like a masculine take on feminine thing.”
They had originally wanted to have a platinum setting, but when it became clear that the diamond had a few chips in it, the jeweler said that this more rigid metal might actually break the stone. So they went with white gold instead, saving Paul a few more dollars to spend on their honeymoon.
The ring has been on Brett’s finger ever since, and we imagine Grandma Bea is up in Far Rockaway Heaven, nodding her head in approval.