Vladimir the Jeweler – The New York Times


I peered into the shiny field trembling in Sam’s palms. Inside sat an oval-lower diamond engagement ring. Hand-engraved leaves and milgrain edges detailed the rose gold band, whereas a baguette and two smaller diamonds hugged either side of the middle stone.

The ring was immaculately designed, flawlessly constructed and by no means me. “How did this happen?” I assumed. But I knew how this occurred. I knew precisely how this unusual, beautiful, not-actually-my-model ring ended up in the shaky palms of the man I really like.

Vladimir.

Vladimir is a petite Russian jeweler with darkish pores and skin, deep-set eyes and an intimidating accent. He obtained his begin in the jewellery trade as a teen in the Soviet Union, promoting rings he made out of walnut shells.

While working beneath the desk — or in the closet, quite — he graduated to extra subtle heirloom supplies like silver start spoons or gold fillings from the deceased. (In the Soviet Union it was unheard-of to place any sort of treasured metallic into the floor, so all valuables had been left to surviving members of the family.)

In his 40s, Vladimir immigrated to America, the place after a couple of years of working manufacturing unit jobs, he opened his personal jewellery store in Chicago.

How do I do know all this? Because Vladimir is my father.

When I used to be a baby, Eastern European salesmen smelling of cologne-dipped cigarettes used to deliver briefcases crammed with treasures to our home. They would lay their spoils on our glass espresso desk, delicately dealing with the items as in the event that they had been made from phyllo dough.

Using a bottle-cap-measurement magnifying glass, my father would meticulously look at all the things for defects. I did lunges, pirouettes and cartwheels round him — something to divert his focus again to me.

Those treasures turned my largest competitors when it got here to my father’s consideration.

My distaste for jewellery deepened as I watched Vladimir, the sole supplier for our household, wilt beneath the stress of working his personal enterprise. In an try and offset my guilt, I started to distance myself from something frivolous. Like diamonds.

“Why you don’t want to wear it?” my father as soon as inquired, dangling a chunky gold chain with an enormous emerald in entrance of me. “Your neck is so nice for this.”

If it had been as much as my father, I’d be coated head to toe in jewellery; a large, 12 months-spherical Christmas tree, twinkling in each room I entered. I want to spend cash on extra sensible issues, like dental insurance coverage.

His favourite items all the time appear to be they had been designed for Elizabeth Taylor’s earlobes or Audrey Hepburn’s clavicle. Not for a chick who nonetheless wears hand-me-downs, stress-picks her nail polish and sometimes forgets to put on deodorant to work.

After I fell in love with Sam, I grew more and more vocal about my aversion to ostentatious jewellery. “Diamonds are a sham, you know,” I’d say whereas pinch-zooming the newest engagement announcement to populate my newsfeed. “They’re an antiquated tradition created by Big Advertising.”

“I know, honey,” Sam would reply whereas studying the precise information.

So you may think about my shock when, after practically 4 years of listening to these appraisals, Sam opened that smooth pink field and I used to be greeted by seven diamonds.

That ring reeked of my father’s deep ardour for extravagant design.

“So, um, will you marry me?” Sam requested from his bent knee on our kitchen flooring.

It’s laborious to recollect what I mentioned, precisely, as a result of the pleasure of the second triggered my thoughts to go clean. According to Sam my response was, “No, no … no way.” Of course, my “no, no … no way” was extra of an expression of shock than rejection, however I’m positive it made for an disagreeable few seconds for my candy man.

Regardless of what I did or didn’t say, my actual reply was sure. Because in fact I needed to marry a core-rattlingly hilarious human with a superb thoughts, brighter future and bicycle owner’s derrière.

The subsequent morning, hungover from celebrating our new relationship standing, I caught my left hand in entrance of Sam’s sleepy face. “Do you like it?” I requested, wiggling my fingers.

“Sure,” he mentioned, then yawned and kissed my palm. “Do you want noodles? I want noodles. Is that weird?”

I glared at the ring because it twinkled in the morning mild. Would Sam discover if I didn’t put on it to noodles? I puzzled. You see, when he proposed, Sam was a grad scholar and I used to be a writers’ room assistant. The high quality and measurement of my rock didn’t mirror our way of life.

I knew Sam saved his laborious-earned cash to get me one thing good, however I additionally knew Vladimir bumped it as much as one thing nicer. I needed Sam to suggest with a hoop that made sense for 2 barely employed folks — copper wire, some fishing line, perhaps a gum wrapper.

As we started to share our engagement information, I discovered it troublesome to undergo the ritualistic “let’s see the ring” second.

“I’m basically engaged to my father,” I mentioned to mates. I made that joke so typically that Sam put a cap on what number of occasions I might say it in public. “I’m basically engaged to my father,” I whispered to a bewildered grocery retailer clerk after Sam had stepped away.

A month later, once we had been in Chicago celebrating with household, my father put his arm round my shoulders and steered me away from everybody. “Let’s change the ring,” he quietly provided. A wave of aid flooded my physique, and I felt like a monster.

“Why?” I requested, understanding the reply.

“I know you, I see you don’t like it. Let’s change it.”

“It’s not that I don’t like it. It’s just not something I would have picked out for myself.” I squirmed beneath the weight of his arm.

“O.K., well it’s no problem to change. I can do it over the weekend,” my father mentioned. It was the first time he’d ever provided to downgrade a bit of knickknack for me. My eyes started to burn with disgrace, and I set free the smallest of sniffles.

“Oh God, Marina,” my mom mentioned upon coming into the kitchen. “You got nothing better to do than cry over a ring? I wish I have your problems.” Before I might react, she grabbed her cigarettes and headed to the yard.

That’s Olga. Her feedback lower like a knife, and he or she’s gone earlier than you understand you’re bleeding.

That night, Sam and I escaped the insanity of our households to the refuge of a bar we used to frequent once we first began courting.

“Can you believe we’re here, engaged?” he requested, flipping by the beer menu.

“I don’t know what to do about my ring,” I mentioned. “I feel like I’m hurting my dad’s feelings, but why did he even put me in this position?”

Sam shut the menu. “Hey, no. Be here with me now. Look where we are!”

I surveyed the crowded bar. Maybe I ought to ask strangers for his or her goal opinions? I assumed.

But after swallowing a few drinks and, consequently, my anxiousness, our dialog moved on. A couple of hours later, as we walked out into the crisp Chicago evening, I urged we go to one other hang-out of ours: the close by 7-Eleven.

“Give me your ring,” Sam demanded.

“What? Why?”

“Just give it to me.”

I cautiously slid the ring off my finger and handed it over. Sam’s eyes glimmered beneath the streetlights, and his nostril turned pink. The immeasurable heat of the second created an indestructible snapshot inside my reminiscence; on this snapshot Sam slowly drops down to at least one knee and holds the engagement ring up in the air, making it sparkle in the mild of the 7-Eleven signal.

“Marina, will you marry me with this ring? The one I proposed with, the one your father designed for you?”

Then one thing unbelievable occurred: The ring modified proper in entrance of our eyes. Standing there in the center of West Buena Avenue, Sam and I watched as the ring melted into my finger and have become part of my bloodstream. (I advised you it was laborious to imagine.)

When the ring reappeared, it now not appeared like a flashy standing image however extra like a unprecedented token of promise.

The subsequent day, after I advised my father I wasn’t going to alter the ring, he delicately took my hand and angled it towards the window. Beams of sunshine exploded from the middle diamond.

“There’s no other ring like this, you know,” he mentioned, admiring his work. My eyes widened as the ring morphed once more. This time, it turned a goodbye current from a father to a daughter.

To today, the ring continues to form shift. One day it’s an adjunct, the subsequent it’s an funding. It’s a starting, an ending and a reminder to simply accept the love you’re given. Every time I tilt the ring towards the mild, it turns into one thing totally different, however nonetheless, it shines all the identical.


Marina Shifrin, the creator of “30 Before 30: How I Made a Mess of My 20s and You Can Too,” is a TV author in Los Angeles, the place she lives together with her new husband, Sam.

Rites of Passage is a weekly-ish column from Styles and The Times Gender Initiative. To learn previous essays and for info on the right way to submit one, check out this page.



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