Why I Bought Myself an Engagement Ring as a Single 30-Year-Old Woman
"Wearing that ring physically symbolized that I, on my own, was enough."
How I Bought That takes a peek inside the process of making a major purchase, whether your budget is big, small, all your own, or supplemented by family and/or financial institutions. In this series, we look at many different spending situations, from how people afforded big purchases like first homes to electric vehicles to splurge-worthy bags.
As I write this, I’m happily married, looking down at the plain gold wedding band on my left ring finger. It’s the only item of jewelry I wear most days as I work from home. But it’s not the first piece of “real” jewelry to grace my hands. Four years ago, I bought myself an antique sapphire and diamond ring. A ring that was possibly once an engagement ring for someone else. For me, however, it was a symbol of my place in the world as a single woman––a woman who was confidently making her own way and didn’t need society’s expectations to define whether or not she was where she should be by 30.
Before buying the ring, I’d enjoyed my freedom to explore hobbies, date, and create a life that felt uniquely suited to me for years. I wasn’t jealous of my coupled-off friends who were accommodating their plans around another person. But, I was jealous of a particular piece of adult jewelry adorning their left hands. Sitting together at dinner, I’d watch their grown-up fingers clutching wine glasses, looking refined with diamond rings glinting beneath ambient light. Princess cuts, Asscher cuts, halos, solitaires, yellow gold, platinum. All of these rings sparkly, symbolizing a certain rite of passage that I had yet to “achieve.”
It seemed that because I hadn’t hit that particular life milestone of having someone get down on one knee to propose forever, I somehow didn’t deserve nice jewelry in society’s eyes. Why are these two seemingly unrelated events––engagement and wearing grown-up diamonds––so, no pun intended, married?!
And, yet here I was, 32 years old. I deserved to feel like a grown-up. I had a career, wonderful friends, goals, experiences––why did I still have to feel like the kid sister playing dress-up with old, tarnished rings rather than one of the adults? Why did this one tiny item, that someone else presumably bought, define someone’s sophisticated presence? Why couldn’t I be the one to say, yes, I can own “real” jewelry.
I thought about this for months (but if we’re being honest, I was likely obsessing over it for years). Then, one ordinary weekend day, I stumbled upon a vintage sapphire and diamond ring in an antique shop closeout sale. I tried it on, admiring its sweeping, angular lines. It likely dated back to the ’70s, with a style that looks more “disco vintage” than Victorian. It was beautiful and, with the clearance sale, it was a steal. I assumed people spent thousands upon thousands on solid gold and fine gemstones. For only a couple hundred dollars, I’d wondered what I had been waiting for.
“I’ll take it!,” I told the shop owner. No second-guessing. No worrying about whether I should wait to get engaged to wear a sapphire and diamond ring. I walked out of the antique shop wearing the just-slightly-in-need-of-resizing ring on my right hand and matter-of-factly told my then-boyfriend, “I bought a ring.”
Looking down at the marquise-cut sapphire, surrounded by six pave diamonds, I felt incredibly pleased with myself, as if I’d finally achieved that grown-up milestone I’d lusted over for years.
I wanted nice jewelry, I deserved nice jewelry, and, for just $300, I made a statement that I didn’t need someone else to prove I was an adult. I could do that wholly on my own.
I texted one of my best friends, “I just bought myself an engagement ring.”
“Of course, you did,” was her immediate response. I’d moved to a new city in my twenties on my own, I’d found jobs on my own, I’d lived on my own. I could buy myself sapphires and diamonds on my own. Wearing that ring physically symbolized that I, on my own, was enough. I could make the announcement that I was an adult who had made her place in the world––I didn’t need someone else to decide what I deserved or how I was valued. And, each time I glanced down at my hand, I was reminded that I’d created a fulfilling life for myself. No one else had–– or could––do that for me.
Emerald Cut Sapphire Engagement Ring
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Vintage Genuine Sapphire Engagement Promise Ring
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In a twist, my now-husband proposed exactly one week after I bought that sapphire and diamond ring. On my wedding day, I proudly wore my “single woman” statement on my right hand––and, funny enough, as our wedding photographer took those pervasive flatlays of rings positioned perfectly amidst invitations and details, she somehow chose to showcase my sapphire ring instead of my engagement ring. A fitting tribute to a life I’d chosen and built, soon-to-be spouse included, on my own terms.