Wednesday, June 18, 2014

His and Hers Engagement Rings

Beau and I have always known that, if we decided to get married, we would both have an engagement ring.

I think it was on our third date that I told him, "If we ever get married, I'll want an engagement ring, because I love beautiful bling, but you'll have to have one too. If you get to pee on me, I get to pee on you."

It wasn't the most romantic way of putting it, but he understood and agreed. If an engagement ring is a way for a man to signal to the world "she's taken," then it's only fair that it also be a way for a woman to signal to the world "he's taken."

Of course, same sex couples should get to both have rings too. Everyone should! Why deprive the world of all that extra beauty? 

(And, for the record, I would not marry Beau in a nation where same sex marriage is illegal. That just wouldn't be right. But we're in Canada, so it's all good!)

Rings by Britton Diamonds
After all that thought, Beau and I finally made our plan a reality. This past month, we both got an engagement ring.

Beau and I strive to have a relationship of two equals, two people, not Man and Woman. We are Beau and Charlotte, simply being ourselves, regardless of whether or not who we are is "manly" or "womanly."

Having two engagement rings is a part of that.

Beau says that our both having engagement rings helps him to "move away from my upbringing and create my own meaning about marriage and commitment. I want to get away from traditional norms of bride and groom, woman and man, woman gets things and man gets different things."

"We want to get married to each other," he says. "I ask you. You ask me. You give me a ring. I give you a ring. If one person's going to do it, then both people should do it."

So that's just what we did, but you have to keep reading to found out how we did it.

He also says that our both having rings had made our engagement rise "to a higher level. Our engagement is almost as important as our wedding. Traditionally, the engagement is like the down payment," and the wedding is the big deal. But, in our case, he says, our engagement, not our wedding, is the moment we're really committing to each other. 

I was raised in a very counter-culture environment so I actually don't know all the traditions and customs surrounding engagement. To me, it seemed obvious that the engagement is the real moment of commitment. I didn't know that was an unconventional perspective.

Needless to say, two people who invest that much meaning in their engagement and their engagement rings, won't want cookie cutter rings. They'll want something out of the ordinary and deeply personal.

A lot of people assumed I would want an antique or vintage ring and that does make sense, given my tastes in jewelry. But this was the one time I wanted something completely new and fresh, its history beginning with our union, not anyone else's. Having grown up with such horrific abuse, I know far too much about what can go wrong in families and marriages. I didn't want even the possibility of a negative family history being attached to our rings.

So we decided to go to a jewelry designer, Carlos, of Britton Diamonds, to help us design our rings.

Ring by Brilliant Earth
We had already looked at a lot of rings online to get ideas and talked a lot about what symbolism we wanted our rings to incorporate. This Brilliant Earth design became my inspiration for my own ring.

I love the concept of two vines intertwining. I thought of some almost wild honeysuckle near where I used to live. When honeysuckle is given no support as it grows, the vines twine around each other, creating mutual support for mutual growth, far stronger together than each would be on its own.

I think this symbolism would appeal to me no matter what my background, but it particularly appeals to me because, like the honeysuckle left on its own, I too had no support as I grew. Now I do.

Dress: Reitmans; Earrings, dress clips, and brooch: vintage; Shoes: Palladium; Ring: Britton Diamonds. On Beau: Glasses: Geek Eyewear; Shirt and jeans: thrift; Shoes: Ecco; T-shirt: Old Navy; Ring: Britton Diamonds
This vine imagery reminds me of me and Beau, a duo of mutual growth and support. The central diamond is, for me, like the flower the vines bear: something we've created together, that's bigger and more beautiful than anything either of us could have created on our own.

I think from our very first date, I knew that, if he and I were to be a couple, I would never be able to grow stagnant or complacent with Beau. He has such a questing mind and spirit that we would always be growing and learning together. I was right. As Beau put it, "Our relationship is not a moment. It's going to continue to grow and change." I like that.

So, I loved the concept of the ring I found online but I did not love every aspect of its design.

I first posted this image here.
I particularly didn't like its prongs. They looked too stark and masculine for me. I've been wearing my maternal grandmother's Art Deco engagement ring for years and it has become a model of a perfect ring for me. I love the details of its more delicate prongs, which are made up of three grains of platinum each. I also love the millegrain and accent diamonds on either side of the central solitaire.

I definitely wanted to incorporate some of the elements of her ring into mine.

Millegrain is those little "dots" you see surrounding each diamond in the Edwardian ring above. It was ubiquitous from about 1900 through about 1940 or later, so it encompasses the Edwardian, the Art Nouveau, and the Art Deco periods.

I have always loved the delicate quality millegraining achieves and told Carlos that I'd really like to incorporate that somehow into my own ring, perhaps in the leaves. He immediately suggested that, instead of using marquis accent diamonds for the leaves, as they did for the Brilliant Earth ring, I should use round ones, surround them with millgrain, and anchor them with white gold beads.

After some back and forth communication, we settled on a leaf design identical to the centre of the ring above. I'm extremely happy with that decision.

He also came up with a split claw design for the prongs that is delicate and lovely.

Edwardian necklace
I think that millegrain makes jewelry look almost lacy, and I love that. I also love the openwork, sometimes asymmetrical, organic look of so many Edwardian and Art Nouveau pieces.

Art Nouveau necklace that I first posted in The Waves: A Universe of History in a Ring
To me, it is almost unspeakably pretty and feminine, which might not be every woman's (or man's) cup of tea, but it's mine.

I also really like that Edwardian and even older engagement rings often had two central stones instead of one, to symbolize the union of two people. I didn't want two central stones, but something else was to symbolize that instead.

I had already decided that I wanted a two tone (both white and yellow gold) ring so that I could wear it with silver or gold toned jewelry. When I saw our design developing, with the two colours of vines, I loved how they seemed to represent our own union of two, Beau and me.

My engagement ring!!! By Britton Diamonds
And so, with a lot of input from Beau and Carlos, this is the final outcome, my engagement ring!

It's not the one I would have designed for myself. It's the ring we designed for us, for our relationship. And it's perfect.

For those who like the details, it's 19 karat white gold (thus not needing an iridium plating) and 18 karat yellow gold. The central diamond is .83 carat, with VS2 clarity, I colour, and an excellent cut. Over and over, I heard and read that a diamond's cut is the most important thing in its beauty so we opted for cut over carat, clarity, and colour. I think we made the right choice.


It's so beautiful, in itself and in its meaning, that it makes my heart sing!

But how were we going make Beau's heart sing over a ring too?

You can find this ring and others like it on My Love Wedding Rings.
I'll be honest. Beau was tough. It took me a while to sell him on the idea of a ring with a stone at all. I could not sell him on a diamond, no matter how hard I tried. He did start warm to the idea of a coloured stone, though it took him a long time to settle on sapphire, a choice that seemed obvious to me, given his black hair and stunning blue eyes.

Without as much knowledge of jewelry as I have, he found it very hard to visualize various styles and stones. He knew he liked bezel settings, white gold, colour, and our vine symbolism, but what else he liked kept changing.

I sent him a lot of ring images and he liked many of them but there was always this or that wrong with each one. None of them was quite right for him. This didn't particularly frustrate me; any excuse to look at jewelry is fine by me.

Plus, as he looked at more and more pieces, he became more and more excited about his ring. He was getting excited about the idea of owning something so beautiful. As he says, "I didn't like the idea of a plain old wedding band and I wanted a ring through the whole process [of our engagement]. I wanted it now. Why should I have to wait for the wedding day to get my pretty ring when you get it now?"

I love that I've been able to give Beau is a better appreciation of beauty and the restorative power it brings. I love that he now feels he deserves beauty. "As a kid," he says, "I liked to just look at things and get lost in things. I've never had something pretty that's always with me, almost a part of my body."

I was just the same when I was a kid and I love that about my ring too.

Roman rings in brass and glass.
Of course, we still didn't have an actual design for his ring.

All along, he'd been mentioning that he liked what he called "rusticy" rings, by which he seemed to mean rings that looked or actually were ancient, like the Roman rings above...

14th or 15th Century ring in gold and sapphire
... or medieval, like this gold and sapphire ring. He liked their simplicity.

Discarding the vine pattern idea, I started looking again and found this ring. I knew I'd finally found his ring and he confirmed that about five minutes after I sent the image to him.

Still, we felt more comfortable going to our jeweler to have it made. Then we had control over every detail.

For one thing, we wanted to find the perfect sapphire. Beau really wanted his sapphire to be from Sri Lanka, where he lived for many years and where he founded a charity school that is still running. That way, Beau can always have with him a part of the other nation that is in his heart.

Of course, we also wanted the perfect blue. Carlos showed me several sapphires and I told him immediately which one Beau would like. I was right.

Beau's engagement ring! By Britton Diamonds
And this is the outcome. This is Beau's engagement ring! He loves it.

It looks so beautiful on him. I just love the way it looks near his blue eyes.

Beau says that when he looks at his sapphire, "What I see is stability, peace, calmness, tranquillity. That's what you provide me. Blue is a calming colour that reduces anxiety. That's what sapphires represent." Looking at the ring "when you're not around is a way to remind me. I can just look at it and think of beauty and calmness."

Aw gee, he really loves me!

So, we each had our perfect engagement ring and we loved them.

But they don't match.

Or do they?

Ah, but they do! We had a lot of fun creating the "secret" parts of our rings, the parts that are against our skin and seen by no-one. Inside of my ring, we put a tiny sapphire to match his. Inside of his ring, to match mine, we put a vine pattern with a wee flower, its centre a teeny tiny diamond.

Aren't we clever?

We both love this secret element in each ring, like the secret elements of a relationship that only the couple knows.

Speaking of secrets, since we designed these rings together, how on earth were we each going to surprise the other with a "proposal," ring and all?

Well, we figured that out too.

Once we finished the designs and picked the stones for each ring, we told our jeweler not to tell me when my ring was ready and not to tell Beau when his ring was ready. Only I'd know when Beau's ring was finished and only Beau would know when my ring was finished. Thus, we could each surprise the other in a romantic way.

Shirt: thrift; Jeans: Reitmans; Shoes: Ecco; Earrings: vintage; Cane: Life; Sunglasses: from a street vendor; Right hand ring: Birks
Beau took me to one of my long-time favourite parks. I used to jog here when I was able-bodied, and walk here on my "non-exercise" days. I've come here myriad times for picnics in the summer and melancholy, misty, rainy walks in the winter. It was only fitting that I brought Beau here on one of our first dates, and we've been coming here together ever since. Now, we live so close to it that, on good days, I can walk there by myself without help.

I've always found it quite magical that a park so beautiful and with such a stunning mountain view could be right in the middle of a large city. Up until recently, it was also in one of the poorest parts of the city. What a gift!

Shoes: Ecco; Jeans: Target; T-shirt: Old Navy; Shirt: thrift; Glasses: Geek Eyewear; Cane: mine 
So here is where Beau wanted to "propose" to me. I suspected, I'll admit, because his hands were shaking when he handed me money to buy my coffee on the way. But I wasn't sure.

We sat on a park bench, looking at the lake and the mountains, and he said, "First of all, I want you to know that this park didn't exist for me until I met you. I never even knew it was here. You've introduced so many wonderful new things into my life..."

Then he got down on his knees and gave me the ring.

I took some time holding it and looking at it, till he got too excited and said, "Put it on! Put it on!" So I did.

Then we both sat there gazing at it in wonderment: it was so sparkly in the sun!

Then we just got all happy and glowy, with light, buoyant hearts.

My back stopped hurting for a whole ten minutes or more. That's how happy I was.

I was able to really show him my love, which is something I'm not always very good at.

Lately, since we moved in together, it's been harder again. I've felt more anxious and scared again. This makes sense and I've written about it here: for someone like me, who was literally enslaved for seven years as a victim of child sex trafficking, and left disabled and in chronic pain as a result, it's just a tad difficult to relax into love. In my fatalistic way, I worry that this nervous state is permanent.

The day Beau and I officially declared to each other, and to our friends, that we were in a relationship. 
Then I remember how far I've come since Beau and I first got together. We took this photo over two years ago, on the day we decided that yes, we were in a relationship. Look how scared I am! I couldn't even look in his eyes for the first month we were dating.

Think of  how far I've come! Think of how far he's come (and how far his fashion sense has come too)! If we did all that growing together so far, of course we'll continue to grow and change as a couple. Of course, I'll learn to relax into love even more.

Despite the fact that I'm the one who chose the symbolism of our rings -- mutual growth and support -- it was Beau who had to remind me of it and assure me that my anxiety and discomfort are not permanent states. I'm the one who said that we are always growing together, and I'm the one who forgot that very fact.

There's another form of appropriate symbolism in the ring that I had not expected. We spent so much time on the design of the ring, that we forgot how beautiful diamonds are all on their own, regardless of their setting (and here I must mention that, as much as I love my grandmother's ring, the more modern cut of my diamond really is more stunning).

My diamond throws flashes of light and colour that appear and reappear as if by magic. Just as I notice one colour, like the purple above, it's gone and replaced by another. It really is sublime; it feels like it gives me fleeting glimpses past our everyday world and into that more spiritual, awe-inspiring "more" that some call God.

It's kind of ironic: diamonds are the hardest substance on earth. They are durable and lasting, which is why they've become a symbol of love (well, that and the whole De Beers marketing campaign but we won't get into that today). Yet, despite their incredible permanence, what makes them so beautiful is incredibly impermanent: their interplay of light and movement, there and gone in a flash, always different, but always beautiful.

Gem stones are meant to be seen in motion and in change -- from sun to shadow, from day to night. This is when they are at their best. They are not meant to be stationary and stagnant.

Is this not a metaphor for love? It's changeability and unpredictability can be destabilizing and maddening at times, but it's part of what gives love its beauty. And those fleeting, impermanent flashes of beauty come from a foundation of permanence, strength, and durability, like a diamond.

So, yeah, my ring made me pretty happy.

Blouse: Reitmans; Boucher brooch: vintage
Now it was my turn to propose to Beau -- right in time for his 39th birthday. (Yeah, he's a younger man, almost five years younger than I am.)

Oh, man, was it ever complicated! Ever heard that expression, "It takes a village to raise a child?" It took a village to help me propose to Beau.

Keep in mind, I'm disabled. Remember too that Beau and I both work from home. We also don't own a car. How exactly was I going to get downtown to get the ring without his noticing, let alone somehow get him to the spot where I wanted to propose without his suspecting?

Add to this the fact that Beau's back had gone out this week too and you get a tough situation.

Carlos, our jeweler, took care of the first part. He offered to come to my neighbourhood to give me Beau's ring. This I could manage. Since I've started using a mobility scooter (a sad and liberating tale to be told in another post), I've been taking myself out for coffee in the afternoons. Carlos simply met me at one of my local cafes and Beau didn't suspect a thing.

Then, while I was out, I parked my scooter on a side street (where a very friendly black cat leapt into my lap and checked out my bag for food), and called some of our friends to help me come up with a scheme. Since Beau's back was out, his friend Mike said he'd email him and offer to help him run errands. Then he'd conspire to deliver him to "our" cafe and fade away so I could propose.

But what about my outfit? I simply had to be dressed well, in an outfit that would match Beau's ring. But, if I dressed that well, just for a little afternoon scoot to a cafe, Beau would suspect. So I went to the friendly ladies at JQ Clothing and asked if I could bring a change of clothes there the next day and do my hair and makeup there as well. They thought it was a great idea. I hadn't quite decided what I was going to wear, but I was pretty sure it would include my rhinestone and faux sapphire, Boucher brooch; it kind of had to, given its thematic similarity to Beau's ring.

Raincoat: London Fog; Jeans: Reitmans; Bulova watch and gold earrings: vintage; Ring: Britton Diamonds; Backpack: Oshkosh
So, on the day in question, I scooted out "for a coffee" with a casual mention of "maybe you can join me while you and Mike are out." I had the ring, my makeup, my push-up bra (tee hee), my dress, and my jewelry all hidden away in my bag.

First, though, I got him a big bouquet of flowers, which was cause for much comment by strangers as I scooted down the street. I was so excited, I told them all what I was about to do, and they gave me fist pumps of encouragement along the way. I also ran into a little old man I've known for twenty years. When I told him what I was up to, he kissed my cheek and whispered in my ear, "I love you." 

I love my neighbourhood.

Then I changed at JQ Clothing, and, in a flurry, scooted off to "our" cafe, the cafe where we very first met, almost two and a half years ago. I even went up to a young man who was sitting at "our" table, the one we sat at on our first date, and asked him to move. When he heard why, he was all smiles, getting up before I'd even finished my tale. (You can see him in the background of one of the photos below, studying Japanese to better communicate with his Japanese girlfriend.)

Does this seem like it was all an awful lot of work? Well, yes, it was. But I wanted to make Beau's face as bright and happy as mine had been when he gave me my engagement ring.

It worked.

I got down on my knees and everything. And, instead of saying "Put it on! Put it on!" as he'd done with me (which I thought was cute), I remembered to put the ring on his finger for him. It was ever so romantic.

I wanted to give Beau the kind of experience women sometimes get to have: to be treated as special and precious and lovely, to be showered with surprises and gifts and flowers. I wanted him to have his "girlie" moment just as I'd had mine.

Why does a man deserve that any less than a woman does?

I wanted to be the one taking care of the details and making the moment magic -- all for love of my Beau.

Plus, I had something to offer in a proposal that men don't: boobs. And, believe me, I put them way up on display. It was fun and funny and Beau certainly did notice. I thought about pulling the ring out of my cleavage but I was afraid of a wardrobe malfunction that would go down in the cafe's history -- so I decided I'd better not risk it.

Beau behaved as anyone would upon receiving the most beautiful and emotionally meaningful ring he or she will ever own: he stared at it and stared at it. 

It's a week later as I write this and he hasn't stopped staring at it. Also, it matches his pajamas.

It was very important to me that his bouquet have irises in it. As I wrote here, irises have become for us a symbol of the sexual and romantic healing that our relationship has made possible, mostly for me, but also for Beau. He was raised in an extremely conservative Christian doomsday cult and was given some very negative messages about sexuality that he is unlearning now. So it wasn't just for me that irises just had to be a part of my proposal. 

Also, their deep indigo is like the velvety undertones in Beau's sapphire.

It was just good fortune that the irises in the park were in full bloom the day Beau gave me my ring, so we have matching photos of our rings.

With Beau, I have finally learned not to split my world up into divisions -- sex here, love there, spirituality somewhere else -- but to combine them in a healthy wholeness.

Of course I'd want to give a man like that an engagement ring! So it's not the custom? Custom be damned.

After all, he may be a man and I may be a woman, but, aside from some superficial anatomical differences, we are very much the same inside. 

Just as our rings look different on the outside, but match on the inside, so too do we.

A match like that is hard to find.

Male or female, beauty ...

... is beauty.

And love ...

... is love.

And that's the story of our his and hers engagement rings.

If you're a woman, and you've given your sweetie an engagement ring, I'd love to hear your story too. Let's start a new tradition. It's about time.

(I'm linking this up to Visible Mondays as Not Dead Yet and Spy Girl's 52 Pick Me Up.)


  1. Mazal Tov! So very, very beautiful. Now you have put happy tears in this reader's eyes, a good thing indeed! Wonderful.

  2. Charlotte, dear sweet amazing Charlotte! Your story is the most touching of "happily ever after" stories which ever have been told. Congratulations to both of you, guys! Beau is amazing for such an incredible love and patience, and more love and more patience... You, my dear friend, are amazing for your big open heart and for being so honest and so brave to believe and to build a beautiful life for both of you. I know that you are a perfect match, and I so wish you a long long long "happily ever after", with new your own traditions, with lots of love, despite all ups and downs.... I wish this from all my heart! You both are fantastic. Of course, you will relax more and more into love, Charlotte. It's so wise that you take it one step at a time. It's a long healing process, but you' ve gone such a long way already. Beau and you are wise and so very loving. And that creates all the miracles in life... Wishing you the whole universe filled with love, every single day, so your pain goes away once and for ever. Sooo happy for you, and sooo touched by you. Your blog is eye opening in so many ways...

    Our rings are somewhere in the future. As you describe your relationship with Beau, I often think that it is so very similar to what we have, Justin and I. We are definitely equals. Coming back to the ring theme, we also think about designing rings for ourselves, and I probably wouldn't even think of it if not for Justin. :) Your post also made me look at the only ring I have which has elements of both antique beauty and modern shapes. I love it. :) I will have to resize it as it became a bit tight to wear.

    Happy engagement to both of you!

    1. I just re-read this, Natalia. You are so very sweet. The things you say give me great courage and help me when my self-esteem is low. And, you were right: I have indeed relaxed more into love.

  3. What a handsome couple you both are, I am so proud to have you as part of the Share-in-Style family.
    Thank youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu

  4. OMG.. what a cute couple!! Have enjoyed this post sooo much! Wonderful to see you both smiling and beeing so much happy. You can see the sparks flying between you and how much you are in love. I can empathize this I am married with my perfect man for 25 years and I love him today like on our wedding day.
    Very tasteful chosen rings.. they are both heavenly beautiful :)

    happy engagement dear :)


  5. I loved every word in this post - so much love, and beauty, and calm (calm is good!). Thanks for sharing with Visible Monday, and congratulations to both of you!

  6. You guys look very happy and your rings are beautiful! You definitely put a lot of thought into what you wanted! My husband is not a jewelry person at all--he has just the plainest wedding ring possible. I, however, love rings and wear 7 most of the time so I guess I wear enough rings for the both of us...

  7. Wonderful story, wonderful rings, and you kids look so GRAND together. Pretty people, and lovely photos. Congratulations.

    1. Kids? Really? You're so sweet! I'm 43 and he just turned 39. He is awfully pretty, isn't he?

  8. Very nice post… congratulations on your engagement. I like both of your rings because I am a jewelry lover and love to collect different color stone rings. On my each wedding anniversary I get different and latest antique citrine ring from my husband.