2014 Clark Scholarship Finalist – Essay 2

We were very poor when we got engaged. My husband and I both saved up for the engagement ring, and when it came time to buy it, we thought we had ‘enough’ on our meager Private E-1 salaries. We went in and discovered that there was a world out there about which we just had no clue. We bought the simplest ring, in a modest size, but went for the quality and cut. Ten years later, we added two trillion cut diamonds, also modest, to compliment the original diamond. My aunt had a star sapphire ring as an engagement ring. She had insisted on not wanting a diamond, citing that it was it a relatively modern invention and marketing campaign.   She was also very aware of provenance, not wanting a gem that was tainted by illegal or unethical practices. We fell victim to the marketing, and never considered the depth and meaning of the other gemstones.

Much later in our lives, my husband returned from Afghanistan, and brought me a birthday present. As I sat on the porch, on the edge of a hay field in the golden light of a late Wisconsin evening, he laid a pillowcase over my lap, much to my bemusement. Then, he handed me a small bag, a fake velvet with the plastic insides, tied with a leather cord. I opened it, and three star sapphires, perfect ovals, slide out into my hand. They were gorgeous, and caught the light in such a way that the legs of the stars practically glowed. One was the size of my thumbnail, and heavy and gorgeous. It looked alive.

Another bag was dropped in my lap, and half a dozen sapphires, various cuts and colors, spilled out. My eyes filled with tears. They in no way represented a payback for the time apart, or made up for the distance and the drama of being geographically separated. Another bag fell from his hands, this time with rubies, mostly uncut; and another, emeralds. I couldn’t see through the tears by the end, looking down at my lap with these indescribably beautiful bits of captured light in my lap that sparkled in the gloaming. I was holding a universe in my lap.

Every single one of them had a story.

“I bought the star sapphires when I looked up at the moon, and knew that it was at its fullest and you and the children were looking up at the same moon, calling it the Daddy Moon. You are my sun and my moon and my stars. I went looking for the gem guy the next day.” We had the largest of the star sapphires made into a ring, called a Mary Magdelene ring, which has the sapphire in the center and seven yellow diamonds in increasing sizes, the largest centered at the bottom, for the seven petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. I have no idea what I am going to do with the two ‘smaller’ star sapphires, other than perhaps have them made into earrings to match.

“I bought the rubies because that was a very hard day. They’re the color of blood, but they’re lit with a sort of inner fire.   I got these to remember how lucky we are to have each other, and how quickly it can go away. They’re supposed to represent passion. ”   I will have these made, eventually, when we’ve saved up enough money, into a piece for my daughter. Three of them are uncut, and two are cut. None of them particularly match, and certainly no pattern or design suggests its-self from their colors or cuts.

“I bought the emeralds because you told me that green was the color of fidelity, prosperity and loyalty. So many people in the war zone get caught up in these war time romances that are based on equal parts adrenaline from the danger and boredom from the routine. There’s nothing to do there besides work, or work out. But if you’re willing, Vegas rules apply. I wasn’t willing, and I knew you weren’t either. These reminded me that there was more to life than a war zone.” Once again, they were a combination of cut and uncut.  These will be for my son.

Some of the sapphires were of cuts and colors I’d never seen before. There were two purple ones, a peachy-pink one, a blue one and a greenish-blue one, all lovely, all cut. The sherbet colored one was round, with what I later learned was a checkerboard cut, which was mesmerizing. The purple squares were the most pretty, with the wide flat surface on top reflecting so much of the inside. “I didn’t get these to protect you from evil, or to avoid poisoning, but sometimes the shapes or colors would make me pause and look. And anything that makes me do a double-take is something I want to share with you.” When the light hits a sapphire, it has an unworldly quality to it.

When he was buying these jewels, something that can no longer be done by US citizens in Afghanistan, he bargained and bartered mightily, assuming that the gems were man-made, or otherwise altered, either synthetic or enhanced. When we took the stones to a gemologist, and specifically one that would store them for us as well, we discovered that more than half of the stones were natural and genuine. I would like to get at least two of them made into engagement style rings to give to my children, creating a family heirloom of sorts, when they wish to be engaged because they contain stories, and remind us of how the important parts of love cannot be captured in one jewel.