Thinking not very deeply about diamond stud earrings, and other such flashy items (like nintendo jewellery) and reflecting a little on a letter to the editor that appeared in today's Otago Daily Times about Prince William's gift of his mother's engagement ring to his wife-to-be. The writer was irate that William was giving Kate a second-hand ring. Surely that's a very recycling thing to do, apart from any sentimental associations?
My wife received a secondhand ring too, when we got engaged. We weren't particularly well off at that stage, and it seemed reasonable enough. One of my daughters subsequently dropped it down a hole in the stairwell wall and that's the last we've seen of it. (I have no idea what my daughter was doing playing with it.)
I didn't give my wife-to-be my mother's engagement ring because I'm not even sure if my mother had one. She was married in wartime, and I suspect engagement rings were regarded as a bit of an extravagance. Apart from that my mother was still alive when I got married, so if she did have an engagement ring, she may not have been keen to part with it.
On the other hand, my grandmother's ring is something I do have - my English grandmother, that is. (Again, I don't know if my New Zealand grandmother even had an engagement ring - she had nine children in due course, which probably would account for any lack of rings in the house.) My English grandmother's ring could easily be recycled too: it looks exactly like a curtain ring. It's perfectly round and thin as can be. How it came to be in my possession is something that I no longer remember - not because I'm losing my marbles but because I don't actually recall ever knowing. Maybe my mother received it at some point, perhaps when my grandmother died. Who knows? Hidden in the recesses of time.