The Value of Sentiment

First… the best perspective…

Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.
~ Proverbs 31:10

Dave, the salesman at J. B. Robinson Jewelers probably thought I
was joking. If so, he did not reveal it as I sat across the counter and explained why I had stopped by that Tuesday evening in March of 1977. I was eighteen years old and knew precisely what I wanted.

I told Dave that I was there to buy a ¼ carat diamond – not a ring – just the stone. However, I wanted the diamond to be perfect. It had to be brilliant and it had to be absolutely stunning. Nothing in the store met my requirements, so Dave told me that he would have to submit a special order to Chicago. After some additional discussion, he stated the cost would be $400.00. This was acceptable and we agreed that I could leave the diamond on layaway making monthly payments. I pulled a five dollar bill out of my wallet, waited for my receipt, and then departed.

There are few men who can say they loved their wife before they even met her, but I have made this statement from time-to-time over the past fourty years. The evidence to back my claim is the diamond
that I purchased with her in mind, even though Dee and I would not meet until the fall of ’79 – more than two years later.

Until then I faithfully continued to make monthly payments of $5.00, never revealing the diamond to anyone. I dated other girls during those years, but never mentioned the diamond to any of them. This special gem was reserved for the one with whom I would spend the rest of my life!

My layaway purchase was one of sentiment – paid for in advance. But, what is the value of sentiment? Was it the $400.00 used to purchase the gorgeous gem that would one day grace the hand of the wife whom I had not even met? No – not hardly!

The diamond was carefully selected as a symbolic representation of love and devotion – sentiment. It was a reflection of something much higher and of far greater importance than simple monetary value.

Dee and I met in the late fall of 1979 and we spent the next year getting to know each other. Still, I kept the diamond a secret until we were sure about our love for each other and that we were destined to be together in marriage. It was love! Yes – a feeling of sentiment!

My five dollar payments were faithfully made each month through July of 1980. Then the remaining balance was paid over the next few months. The ‘Paid in Full’ statement is dated October 7, 1980 and I received the gorgeous gem in the mail a few weeks later. Also included was an appraisal. The perfect diamond had increased in value from $400 to $1,250 – a very nice gain in value in less than four years, but sentiment made it worth much more than dollars!

Diamond appraisal and small black mailing box: October 1980

I had the diamond mounted in a gold setting in November and Dee and I were soon engaged. We were married the following summer – August 1st, chosen because we liked the look and sound of the date: 8/1/81. But the special diamond continued to have a life and a story all its own.

Several months after we were married, Dee came to me in tears, absolutely heartbroken. She had lost the diamond ring and it was nowhere to be found. We tried to recall every place we had visited over the prior twenty-four hours. We looked everywhere in our small apartment, checked outside, and carefully searched the car and driveway. Not a trace – it was gone.

I cannot remember my exact words that day, but I was not angry. I recall telling Dee that it was OK. I told her the diamond and the ring were simply a symbol of that which was most important.

Discovery! About a month later, Dee found the ring mixed in with a few blankets – it had slipped off her finger as she stacked laundry.

Time passed. The gold setting gradually wore down and needed to be repaired. There was an occasional cleaning. Along the way, every jeweler who examined the diamond commented on how absolutely stunning it was and they marveled about its quality and beauty.

Some years later Dee and I suddenly noticed a problem with the stone. The color was gone and the appearance was hardly what we were used to seeing. The diamond had developed a split or crack that completely destroyed the brilliance and clarity, leaving the gem a murky gray color. It was no longer the rare and stunning stone that I had purchased so many years before.

Dee and I celebrated our 25th anniversary with a new engagement ring and wedding bands. However, the original diamond purchased so long ago remained in Dee’s jewelry box. In our minds, the stone was still a gem, even if it could no longer be worn on the hand. The gem had no monetary value, but it did have the value of sentiment.

Eventually I decided to preserve the diamond in a unique way that would protect the stone from further damage while turning it into something new and special. It would be placed in a necklace so Dee could wear it occasionally as a treasured keepsake.

I went to a trusted local jeweler who had been in business for more than fifty years. I needed an expert, one who had the necessary skill and who could see the value of sentiment.  Surely a long-time master jeweler would understand and fully appreciate this special project.

Disappointment! Well yes, the requested work was completed to my satisfaction, but along the way it became clear that not everyone understands the value of sentiment. To my utter dismay, even this long-time professional jeweler focused completely on the dollars, ignoring the story, and missing the true value of the gem that I had entrusted to his care.

Today the much loved diamond remains mostly in the jewelry box, rarely worn, yet still honored as the special jewel that it is – not because of an appraisal, for indeed it has no further monetary value. Instead, it continues to have an honored place  in the jewelry box because of sentiment and as a symbol of love and devotion.

In early August I was sorting various items that had been stored in our attic as part of our preparations to move to Tennessee. I came across the documents related to the diamond, including all of the receipts and papers and even the small black box that was used to mail the diamond from Columbus, Ohio so many years ago. I noticed the original warranty and the appraisal, but perhaps of greater importance, I found the written guarantee of full credit toward a future purchase in case of damage or dissatisfaction.

That evening I called the local J.B. Robinson jewelry store and spoke with one of the managers. I briefly told my story about the diamond and according to Kerri, the warranty is still in effect! Certainly I will never trade in our special gem, for the value of sentiment cannot be matched at any price. However, this story may have another chapter.

© Jeffery J. Michaels / Plain English Publications 2017

(Quotations allowed with attribution to this blog)