Found My Grandpas Wedding Band Show Me Your Heirloom Bands

Saturday, January 14th 2023. | Weddings

Found My Grandpas Wedding Band Show Me Your Heirloom Bands – Nervous but hopeful, Ian Ross knew what he wanted to ask, but wasn’t sure how to say it. He looked into her eyes, knowing that the entire proposal hung on this moment.

But it wasn’t the answer from his girlfriend that he expected. It was his grandmother. She asked him for her diamond ring.

Found My Grandpas Wedding Band Show Me Your Heirloom Bands

Found My Grandpas Wedding Band Show Me Your Heirloom Bands

Ross hadn’t planned on proposing to Maddy Wendell with a second-hand diamond last May. But working as a freelance EMT, he’d barely made a dent in his $25,000 in student loans, and buying a new ring would have meant stealing his savings. Instead, the couple, both 24 and living in Chicago, saved thousands by wearing the “Grammy” 0.77-carat Old European-cut diamond ring.

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Mr. Ross is among the many young people who have turned to heirloom or other vintage rings in search of more affordable and often more meaningful alternatives to new diamonds and wedding bands. Family members often pass these rings on freely or after a few exchanges.

Concerns that newer diamonds could be used to finance civil wars in Africa, so-called conflict or blood diamonds, have also fueled interest in heirloom rings, though diamonds from all eras carry historical baggage.

Until the 1940s, brides generally did not expect to receive diamond engagement rings. But then De Beers, the world’s largest diamond producer, began aggressively marketing the connection between diamonds and romance. In 1947, a Philadelphia agency hired by the company created a catchphrase, “A diamond is forever,” which cemented this connection in the American psyche.

“The De Beers campaign and rising wealth in the economy meant that people bought a lot more diamond engagement rings than ever before,” said Tim Jackson, chief executive of the Jewelery Industry Research Institute, a practice consulting. “With the death of those who married in the post-war years, their precious jewelry was passed on to a younger generation.”

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Later, De Beers’ advertising added another caveat, suggesting that brides spend two months’ salary on the ring.

But Ira Weissman, the founder of consumer education website The Diamond Pro, says couples today are more reluctant to spend that kind of money on an engagement ring.

“This generation, more than any in the past, knows what De Beers is all about, so to be told you have to spend two months salary to buy one is crazy,” he said.

Found My Grandpas Wedding Band Show Me Your Heirloom Bands


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There’s a good reason young couples turn to the family jewelry box. According to a recent Pew Research survey, millennials have higher levels of student loan debt, poverty, and unemployment than the previous two generations at the same stage of their lives.

That forces grooms like Mr. Ross to choose between diamonds and debt. “He was nervous about using a relic,” he said. “It certainly felt weird because it didn’t seem like you were supposed to,” he added, explaining, “I felt a pressure as a man, ‘I should go out and buy a ring.'”

Stephen Lussier, executive vice president of marketing at De Beers Group, said the two-month benchmark salary was derived from consumer research and may not apply to all situations. However, he advised brothers of all income levels to view the purchase as a long-term investment.

“If you buy a car, you probably finance it for a few years and eventually it’s gone,” he said. “With a diamond, you’ll have it forever, so taking advantage of jewelry financing plans is probably helpful because it means you’ll be able to buy the diamond you’ll be happy with for the rest of your life.”

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But for some couples who share an apartment—and accounts—before marriage, the idea of ​​a groom being asked to spend an arbitrary amount on a ring is seen as old-fashioned, if not downright anti-feminist.

Ms. Wendell not only objected to Mr. Ross paying too much, she also offered to split the cost. “I felt like it was crazy that he had to pay for all of this, for something that I’ve been carrying my whole life,” said Ms. Wendell, a graduate student at the University of Chicago.

Those without access to Grandma’s ring can explore the booming market for antique jewelry, offering unique designs as well as cheaper prices. “Typically, other jewelers will buy old-cut stones for less, so they have room to sell them for less,” said Ilya Kunin, a certified old-cut diamond jeweler and dealer in Chicago. “It’s quite a buyer’s market because it’s a niche product.”

Found My Grandpas Wedding Band Show Me Your Heirloom Bands

Mr. Kunin began designing his own vintage-style line in 2007 in response to demand. “The youth hipster movement has definitely opened up the market for vintage jewelry,” he said. “It’s not like the boring halo rings you find at your family jewelry store every day. It’s something that’s rare and unique.”

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Many retailers have begun to deal with that spirit of individuality. “Millennials want everything to be personalized and not uniform,” said David J. Bonaparte, president and CEO of Jewelers of America, a national trade association.

When Michael Mallick, 39, got down on one knee last August, his girlfriend, Katie Wagner, 31, couldn’t hope for a more perfect ring than her grandmother’s 0.67-carat diamond. Her Art Deco style fit Ms. Wagner’s vintage taste: her clothes come from Goodwill and her furniture from flea markets. But more important was the ring’s link to her past. Hers two of her paternal grandparents died when she was 6 years old and the ring is the only connection she has left to them. “I was spoiled because she was the first grandchild,” said Ms. Wagner, founder of Remark Media Relations in San Francisco. “I just remember being the center of her world.”

However, not everyone wants an engagement ring to be her “something old”. “We see this especially in the bridal market, where people sometimes refer to them as ‘virgin diamonds’, the ones with no history,” said De Beers’ Lussier. “They want to make their own story.”

Last May, when Matt Fellows asked Brittney McDermott (now Fellows), both 26, to marry him, she bought a new ring instead of wearing her grandmother’s 1950s diamond. “I wanted to get something special that only my wife, and only my wife, would ever wear as a ring,” said Mr. Fellows, an accountant in Salt Lake City. “It was a degree of willingness to show that this is my commitment and this is my investment in us.”

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However, buying a store-bought ring caused some couples to worry about supporting “blood diamonds,” illegally mined stones used to finance armed rebels in conflict zones in Africa.

In October, 28-year-old Andrew Martin kissed Mallory Pickard onstage at a concert in Raleigh, North Carolina. he proposed, presenting her with a 1.96-carat conflict-free engagement ring that originally belonged to Mrs. Pickard’s great-grandmother.

“I wouldn’t be wearing a huge diamond that was new from a store if this ring didn’t come into play,” said Pickard, 27, a community coordinator who also wore her great-great-grandmother’s wedding ring this weekend. It is used when the couple gets married. “I would have searched for vintage rings on Etsy or gotten a ring that was eco-friendly, and knew where the metals or stones came from.”

Found My Grandpas Wedding Band Show Me Your Heirloom Bands

But major retailers like Tiffany’s say they also make special efforts to ensure their jewelry is sourced and processed ethically.

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And less than 1 percent of the world’s mined diamonds are conflict diamonds, according to Andrew Bone, head of government relations for De Beers Group and vice president of the World Diamond Council, a coalition representing the diamond and jewelry industry. He blamed the decline on the Kimberley Process, a UN-backed initiative that has worked for more than a decade to stem the flow of conflict diamonds.

But groups like Amnesty International are skeptical of the 1 per cent figure, saying the Kimberley process has not been as effective as it should have been.

Of course, the oldest rings can also have obscure origins. Diamonds mined in colonial Africa exploited the continent’s indigenous inhabitants. Other rings were seized during the Holocaust and their origins were hidden when they were finally sold.

“At the end of the war, the Germans, knowing they were going to lose, took a lot of small, valuable things, like diamonds, to neutral countries like Sweden or Switzerland,” said Greg Bradsher, senior archivist at the National Archives. “It is almost impossible to determine if a particular diamond came from a victim.”

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But since these events have been around for so long, many do not see anything negative in wearing ancient rings. “When you buy an antique diamond, you’re not taking the abuse because you’re just recycling and using,” said Beth Gerstein, co-founder of Brilliant Earth, an online jeweler that she only wears.

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