The morning of July 31 was our third day of a family vacation. Chased out of Florence by the midsummer heat, we were staying at a small albergo in Pescia, Tuscany, an unlikely waystation on our way to the French Alps for our annual sojourn at high elevation. Indeed our local friends raised their eyebrows at the thought. It is a bit like getting a head start on your drive from Seattle to San Francisco by staying in Olympia. But this albergo boasted a magnificent pool. That morning I was wearing my diamond solitaire, as was my custom. I rarely removed it. I swam in the pool. I applied sunblock to both myself and my children. I sketched, and wrote in my journal. I read a book.
We left in the mid-morning in our car – my husband driving, and our two children in the back seat. I was wearing cutoffs and a knit t-shirt. Our destination was just across the French border, in the province of Savoie. It was a sunny day with heavy traffic on the autostrada, so we planned to minimize our stops. However, it was not possible to drive stright through from Tuscany to France with young children. Around midday we stopped at a gas station in Liguria. I took Victor into the gas station to use the restroom.
We used the family restroom and washed and dried our hands. Once back outside, we ate our sandwiches next to the car because the area was so busy. When we finished, we brushed the crumbs from our clothes and got back in the car to continue our journey on the autostrada. Not long after we left, I looked down at my hand and saw that the solitaire from my engagement ring was missing. I panicked. I started searching the car, in my seat, on the floorboard. My heart sank as I realized it may have popped out in the rest stop bathroom. That evening, after we arrived at our hotel in France, I checked carefully in every bag that had been behind the seat, especially the snack bag we had prepared for the children. Perhaps the diamond popped out when I was getting a snack for the kids. But we did not find the diamond anywhere.
As soon as we got settled in the new hotel in La Rosière I reported the loss to my insurance. I continued to look for the lost diamond in the car without luck. It was not in a pocket of my cutoff shorts either. The insurance company requested proof of its purchase and an appraiser’s report. But since our move to Italy in 2016, almost all of our documents from the Time Before have been located in secure storage in a unit in Spokane, WA. It was about 0.4 carat, highly graded for quality, in an Asscher cut. We paid retail a little less than one thousand dollars for it when it was purchased online. It was a big deal for us then.
The solitaire was my one piece of fine jewelry, purchased for me by Jason, then my fiancé, in 2004. We shopped online in the caveman days of the internet, and narrowed it down to three choices. Jason said he’d pick the one he liked best.
It’s just a symbol, Jason cooed. Try to calm down. Looks like it’s time for you to find a new ring. But I was devastated. I am a very sentimental person, and even small items that carry no real value mean the world to me for the memories and energy that attaches to them. I am far better than I used to be (reforming packrat) but still. The engagement ring. It felt like a huge loss to me. I was sad for days in France. Even when the insurance representative urged me to not worry about it, to not let it ruin my holiday. I sat on the balcony and read Stendhal. I put the empty ring in a safe place. I thought about everything that ring had seen, every work desk, ever hospital bed, every baby diaper and meal I prepared.
In 2004, Jason kept the ring hidden from me on a very long road trip, from Norman to Philadelphia to Folly Beach, South Carolina, where we were engaged on the evening of Epiphany, 2005 – just a little over a year after we met. When he pulled out the box at sunset we both dissolved in nervous giggles. He placed the ring on my finger, and there it remained, through thick and thin, until July 31, 2021.
In retrospect I might have taken it off more frequently, perhaps been more careful with it when bathing, swimming, or showering, or slathering children with sunblock or my legs with lotion. But I didn’t, and with the passing of time one or more of the prongs weakened and broke, making the ring look like a crone’s toothless gap. I suspect no one even realized it was a diamond at that gas station in Liguria, if it was ever even noticed, which I also very much doubt. A clear bit like that may have seemed as inconsequential as a tiny block of broken tempered glass.
What happened next? There is more to this story. Post to follow.
Perhaps the diamond languishes in Pescia? At least that would be closer than Liguria?
I did the same thing with a treasured lapel pin some years ago. I think I had laid it aside in a hotel in Warrenton, Virginia, the morning after a series of long flights from Pisa to Washington/Dulles. In the fog of jet lag, I must have laid the pin aside. I still miss it!
Your story reminds me of something slightly unrelated. There was a joke circulating in Boston (Massachusetts) years ago about a wealthy matron (probably a Lodge or from another well-heeled Beacon Hill family). She took a driving trip to California and back. When asked the route she took, her response was “by way of Dedham”. A commentary on the then-famous provincialism of Bostonian upper crust types.
Folly Beach , South Carolina? Where I had my first taste of she-crab soup. I still remember it after many years.
My mother lost her precious diamond as well. My parents married in 1940’s Holland, a plain gold band sufficed…followed by a small diamond ring thirty years later. Mom was so proud of this modest ring! Ten years later she too noticed the stone had gone missing. Several years passed. One night she was sitting in the living room, and happened to glance at the kitchen table because a strange gleam caught her eye…a reflection from the over-table lamp. There, in the the side crevice of the vinyl kitchen ‘club chair’ was her tiny little diamond, winking up at her. I hope you are as successful! Jeanne
Ah gah, felt a pit in my stomach while reading your post. There’s so much more to a diamond engagement ring that its physical appearance. Greg bought me these tiny diamond studs a long time ago. I wore them every day. One day about. 5 years ago, I was rushing around and put them in my jeans pocket, which I discovered had a hole in it after arriving to the office. I looked in the hallways everywhere. I eventually found one but not the other. Eventually he replaced them, which I fully appreciate, but I still miss the original pair because he did all the research and picked them out on his own. I still look for the missing one in the hallways to this day.