Sunday, August 09, 2009

Bling! Bling! My Garnet Ring


This garnet ring once belonged to my maternal grandmother, Ruth Lillian HOEKSTRA VALK DeVRIES. It's probably not extraordinarily valuable, although it does have four genuine garnets and is made of 14K gold. Garnets are not my birthstones; aquamarines are, having a March birth. It's not even an antique, but it's worth to me is in its sentimental value and the story of love behind it.

Ruth's mother, my great-grandmother Lillian Fern STRONG HOEKSTRA, was born January 10, 1897. The birthstone for January is the garnet. Over the years, my great-grandmother received several pieces of jewelry adorned with her red birthstone from my great-grandfather, John Martin HOEKSTRA. A little more than a year after Lillian died in 1967, John married their housekeeper, Anna STULP. Several years later, I recall overhearing a conversation between my parents. Apparently my mother had received a phone call or a letter from her mother in Western Michigan, in which my grandmother shared her frustration that her father had given Anna the garnet jewelry that once had belonged to her mother. Although I'm not sure, it possible that this occurred in early 1976, shortly after my great-grandfather's death in December of the previous year. It may be that this gift of the garnet jewelry to Anna was decreed in John's will; I'm not sure. Regardless, my grandmother was upset for a couple of reasons: she felt the jewelry, having belonged to her mother, ought to go to her and her sisters (it may even be that her mother once indicated it would); and also, my grandmother, having a January birthday herself, probably felt that having garnet jewelry would be extra special.

You must also understand that my grandmother was a generous, friendly person, and never a small, mean individual. My grandfather managed his money well, so although they lived frugally, they well could have afforded some nice jewelry. So Ruth's distress was not out of financial need, but was exacerbated by the fact that she felt she could not go to Anna and ask for the jewelry without appearing to be selfish and demanding.

From my childhood memory of the occasion, I believe I remember my mother being upset as well over the situation. I also believe that it was my father who came to the rescue and suggested that for their (birthday?) gift to my grandmother, they would order a nice garnet ring for her. It was likely ordered through Jafco, which is where we ordered all our jewelry in those days, living as we were far from any major stores on Prince of Wales Island in Alaska.

The ring was ordered and shipped to my grandmother. I know that she loved it and thanked my parents profusely. She was wearing the ring when I last saw her when I visited her in Grand Rapids in October 2000. The garnet jewelry of my great-grandmother's was not mentioned again, to my knowledge. After Anna's death in 1992, her family probably inherited it. It doesn't matter; to me, this ring is a precious statement of the love my parents had for my grandmother. When she died in 2001, I inherited it.

I don't wear it often; it slips on my ring finger just fine, but my knuckles tend to swell during the day, and often by afternoon, I can't get it off. Since I tend to be claustrophobic about such things, I wear it for special occasions only, for short periods of time. I never put it on without remembering the story behind it; someday, I hope to pass it on to either my daughter or a granddaughter.

Written for the 16th Edition of the "I Smile for the Camera" Carnival - Bling, Ancestor Bling
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