I don't have a diamond wedding ring. We got married without rings, in fact, and waited almost a year before getting ours. While hardcore minimalists say the wedding ring is an unnecessary relic, I think it's a useful symbol. Nobody believed I was married until I started wearing one!
I've never been much for jewelry, except a cluster of rings worn in college and some silly earrings from high school. One by one, they disappeared, including a trendy "Oui" ring my cat Bull may or may not have eaten. That jewelry didn't mean anything to me, so I didn't take care of it the way I should have.
Accessories are the most expressive part of an ensemble. Shoes speak volumes about you, from occupation to physical abilities and cultural background. A woman's purse, I think, is a reflection of her state of mind. Jewelry shows aspects of one's personality the public may never glimpse otherwise.
Because it's such a personal thing, it's impossible to say what accessories should be worn with which outfits. But that doesn't mean people won't try. After I got married, everyone asked, "Where's the ring?" When we finally chose ours, everyone asked, "Where's the diamond?" Though I dreamt of a giant, two to three carat monster as a little girl, my tastes changed with time. Apart from the arbitrary value of diamonds mined at the price of enormous human suffering, or the barbarous manufacturing of gold (my ring is nevertheless gold), I had no desire for one. They didn't look beautiful to me.
Admittedly, when my husband broached the subject of a Trinity ring- created in 1924, made famous by Jean Cocteau- I felt a twinge of disappointment. "It's what all elegant ladies wear," he assured me, and he was right. The French women I admire and look up to, including half my friends' moms, wear it; so does the mean blond girl at Shakespeare and Company who went crazy when BJ Novak tried flirting with my sister. "You're lucky you get any ring at all, having a German husband," my friend Claudine said, noting the practical cultural custom of not giving an engagement ring. Married women in many lands, I noticed, don't even wear wedding bands. "I think it's an Anglo thing," explained my Kazakh friend Ulyana.
All the misgivings about my husband's choice- timeless, intertwined in a halo symbolizing love, fidelity, and friendship, like a threefold cord- dissipated when I tried it on. It was perfect! Light, pretty, and practical for my love of travel, or my tendency to garden and wash dishes without gloves on. It suited me in a way a diamond never could. Though I never imagined myself wearing gold, the rose, white, and yellow tones flattered my skin. My hands (and feet) are essentially portraits of Dorian Gray, aging precipitously while the rest of me looks the same, and this glowing, rolling band turned back the clock, somehow.
In Paris, most women don't wear engagement rings, so the only time I ever felt bad about mine- I'm over it now- was when I visited Cleveland and people just could not accept its lack of diamond. Only my mom comforted me. "Your ring is so cool. It's unique," she'd say, whenever rude women made me insecure. Hers is secondhand, a giant, sparkly cut in an Art Deco puzzle setting, free from the usual ethical implications, imbued with the history of previous owners. Still, even she said, after a few weeks in Europe, "You were right! I didn't quite believe you until now, but women here really don't wear diamonds!"
If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't change a thing, except buy secondhand. My two pieces of jewelry are easy to care for- most designs are- with a little savon de marseille and a soft, dry cloth. According to Cartier, ammonia, alcohol, dishwashing soap, Windex, and chlorine should never be used on metals or gems, although vinegar is okay on most things except pearls. Toothbrushes aren't recommended, and pearls must be worn to maintain luster.
My other accessories don't match, but they coordinate, and they're all comfortable. I have one set of lined leather gloves and five pairs shoes, mostly secondhand. They're perfect for rain and have sturdy soles for uneven Paris streets. Patent leather is especially durable and easy to clean. I use a linen scarf as a shawl and tie the silk scarf in my hair- my dresses look best when nothing obscures the neckline. I also have the same secondhand nylon bag everyone else carries in Paris. A Macbook, an extra pair of shoes, and a zero-waste lunch fit in mine, the smallest model (I previously stated it was a medium- I've since been corrected!). When it gets dirty, throw in the wash with other laundry and hang to dry. When the corners unravel, take to a Longchamp shop to fix for free. Nothing is lighter or easier to carry around all day if you don't have a car!
As for my sunglasses, they're so old and past season, Dior had to special order a part when a stem fell off. I MacGyvered a paper clip to fasten it back on in the interim, which worked so well, I did that again when the other side followed suit. They're the only sunglasses big enough to fit my giant face, they match all my clothes, and I'm still not sick of them- it's hard finding sunglasses that don't make me look like an alien, so I'd like to keep these as long as possible. You can see all of my clothing and accessories here, with information on their social and ecological manufacturing costs here.