Diamonds and Emeralds

These are the earrings I’m wearing today. I last wore them on my wedding day, 49 years ago.


They’re nothing special (look at those awful settings around the stones) but to me they’re intensely special. My grandfather gave them to my grandmother in 1919, and then he died in the Spanish Flu pandemic.  She gave them to my mother. My mother gave them to me. I wore them for my wedding and wished I hadn’t, because they had old-fashioned screw fittings that just about killed my earlobes. We think they’re Italian.

All these years later I’m having a jewellery adventure. My friend Bernice mentioned a very good manufacturing jeweller here in Wellington, and I thought, “Get those earrings changed!” I also thought, “Do something with those old rings.”


Brian Barrett and his wife Helen have a studio in the nearby suburb of Karori. Their website is - currently undergoing redesign as I write this. I can’t recommend them highly enough – lovely people and beautiful work. All their contact numbers are there.

The ‘old rings’ were my mother’s; her emerald and platinum engagement ring which she rarely wore because she didn’t want to damage it in the garden, and an opal ring that Dad bought her on their honeymoon. This was in 1946, when vehicles were not all that reliable and roads were often unsealed. A wheel came off the car and they rolled to a rest, undamaged, in a ditch. “It’s that darn opal!” my mother was reported to have said. “People say they’re unlucky!” And she probably never wore it again.

She lived past ninety, and when she died, I brought the two rings home. They have sat in a carved box on the bookcase for the last fourteen years. Well, what a waste! Not only have I had Brian alter the old earrings so they finally have easy thread-through hooks, but I asked him to use the rings to make a pendant so I could wear it around my neck. I'm not really a ring person - I use my hands too hard. I threw into the mix a pair of diamond ear-studs which used to be part of my businesswoman’s disguise twenty years ago, and a matching diamond pendant which I never wear up my curtain ladder. Here is the amazing result. He has used one of the shoulders of the original engagement ring to make the bale the chain threads through. That’s a new word I’ve learned – I must poke it into a book sometime.

It’s far too grand for the way I live now, but it gives me a giggle to think of wearing this spectacular thing as I sit at my keyboard and potter around the garden.

There’s a further part to this story. When my Dad died we found a little box of gold – some sovereigns and half-sovereigns that went to my nephews, some old-fashioned cufflinks, evening studs for a shirt-front, and a couple of gold teeth!!! These had plainly been retrieved when he finally had his real ones out and got a denture late in life.  I took my strange little selection to Brian to see if he had any use for it in the finished pendant. I quite liked the idea of having a piece of Arthur Horace there too. No – extra gold not needed – but Dad paid for the rings, so he’s definitely part of it.

I don’t know what size you’re viewing this. On my PC screen it’s huge, and would be right at home among the crown jewels in the Tower of London. Reality is a bit smaller. Dad didn’t buy Gladys Mabel an emerald half an inch square.  What a shame.