I recently had my grandmother’s engagement ring restored (thank you Andy at Marthaler Jewelers!) It now sparkles like it must have when Grandpa bought it more than 60 years ago.

The ring is VERY special to me. Grandma Burla was Grandpa Rex’s second wife. But he married her before I came along so I never knew her as anything other than my REAL grandma.

When I was little I thought her ring was the most gorgeous, priceless jewel I’d ever seen. Then she quit wearing it at some point–fingers too arthritic for rings. When she was well into her 80s–maybe even 90–she started giving away her favorite things–her pitcher collection, quilts, odds and ends that meant something to her. And during one visit to her little brick house in Evergreen, WV, she handed me a box with the ring inside.

Grandma had large hands. She’d told me before how hard it was to find gloves that fit back when that was what ladies were expected to wear in public along with a stylish hat. And she was worried I’d have to get the ring sized down to fit me. Nope. It fit perfectly (I have big hands, too!).

It was a very sweet, very emotional moment when I slid that ring onto my finger and it fit just right. Then Grandma leaned closer, lowered her voice, and said, “It’s not real.”

The diamond is what she meant. The band is 10k gold and a jeweler once told me she thought the stone might be a zircon (not to be confused with cubic zirconia). But either way, it’s NOT a diamond and Grandma didn’t want me to be disappointed.

But I think my ring is real the way the Velveteen Rabbit became real. It’s priceless in the way treasured, one-of-a-kind family heirlooms are. Diamond, paste, or zircon, this is the ring my grandfather (who died when I was six months old) picked out just for my grandmother. It’s the ring she wore when she made us chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. When she held cards in her hand for a rousing game of Crazy Eights or Go Fish. The ring on the finger that clasped mine as we played Ring Around the Rosie until we all fell down right there in the yard where her beloved peonies and flags grew.

Family photo
Me and Dad and Grandma. Yes, I’m wearing the ring!

Real? I guess so. I can’t think what could possibly be more real than this gift from the woman who loved me a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck and who gave me a bit of sparkle to remind me what real really is.