You don’t need to be JRR Tolkien to believe that while it’s fine to talk of owning most items of jewellery, a ring will always to some extent possess you.
Why do I say this? Rings are the ultimate symbols of love, devotion and belonging. When they’re given to us they express an allegiance more valuable than precious metals. Wedding, signet, eternity, engagement, friendship and devotional rings are rarely removed once they’re placed on a finger and they become part of us, absorbing something of our soul.
Above all other treasures, rings have a near-miraculous habit of finding their way back to an owner after they’ve been lost. I'm not just talking about myths and ring of power being restored to the Rhine maidens in Wagner’s Ring cycle, but the mysterious homing instinct of real life golden bands.
"A ring will always to some extent possess you."
I’ve had several such strange experiences – to the point where I now collect stories from others, many of which always test credulity. Take the friend who lost her wedding ring on a beach and spent hours scouring the sand for it. A year later she returned to the same place and started recounting the anecdote while sitting on a rug. She scooped up a handful of sand as she talked and let it sift through her fingers. Only for the grains to reveal… the lost ring.
My own tales are equally uncanny. There was the dark day at the turn of the millennium when I was working late in my London office just off Regent Street. I looked down at my engagement ring and was horrified to see the diamond had fallen from the claws. It was 2am, so it was very hard to retrace the day’s footsteps.
"Rings have a near-miraculous habit of finding their way back to an owner after they’ve been lost."
I’d been out for breakfast, had a boozy lunch and early evening meetings, and the only place I felt I could phone was the Westbury Hotel, where I’d had a brief drink. I spoke to the night porter who said I could nip round the corner and take a look at the bar floor, just in case. When I arrived a beaming man came towards me from the revolving doors. In his hand was a small white envelope and wrapped in the tissue paper was my small, twinkly diamond. He’d found it under a barstool.
In 2003 I suffered a more calamitous loss. Again, I was working late at my office and removed all five of my rings in the shared loos to wash my hands. It wasn’t until the next day, when my husband and I were halfway to Scotland to see family, when I glanced down to see my naked hand. My husband says I went white with shock. I phoned my office and sent out a search party – but nobody had seen them.
In one fell swoop I had managed to lose my wedding and engagement rings (both of which had belonged to my husband’s mother, who died when he was 13), a Cartier Russian wedding ring (given by my uncle to his lifetime partner just before he died of Aids), a diamond and sapphire ring (recently handed down by my mother who was dying of cancer) and a Victorian mourning ring, gifted by my late Godmother. Five gold rings – just like the Christmas carol.
I couldn’t sleep or settle all weekend and returned by train to London, thinking the only thing I could do was to ask the cleaner, who arrived every day around 5am. I also put up notices offering a £500 reward for the items. I slept in my office and was waiting there that morning to relate my sorry story to the young Colombian lady. She looked me in the eye and said that, yes, she had seen the rings, but she left them beside the sink.
"South Americans are more superstitious even than Kentish lasses like me."
But there was a certain flicker of unease suggesting this wasn’t the truth. Furthermore, it made no sense. I wasn’t cross with her, just frustrated with myself. After all, I was the privileged prize idiot who had turned my rings into unbearable temptation for a woman on low wages.
Still I heard nothing. It was then I had my brainwave. I stayed over in the office again and waited for the cleaner. This time I looked her in the eye and said the rings were of irreplaceable value to me as they’d belonged to people I loved who were now dead. She blanched. South Americans are more superstitious even than Kentish lasses like me. The next day she returned my rings (they were “found” behind some loo rolls). I gave her the reward – and remain grateful to this day for her gesture.
"Gold rings have powers beyond our comprehension."
Now, whenever I look at my rings, I think, “You came back to me.” And I love other friends’ tales of miraculous returns. There was the woman who found her lost wedding ring on top of a potato plant on her vegetable patch five years after losing it while gardening. And the friend whose signet ring was returned from a river by a fisherman who ‘caught’ it, checked the inscription and tracked her down. The storytellers aren’t wrong when they tell us gold rings have powers beyond our comprehension. And I, for one, won’t be careless with mine again.
We invite you to Ringing in The New Year: We show you how to ring in the New Year with our curated selection of the most dramatic and desirable cocktail rings. Because the ring is the jewel that you can see and enjoy yourself. And because this is the year to express yourself in jewels.