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Ring’s Sentimental Value Permits Display

Judith Martin United Features S

Dear Miss Manners: I live in a small town where everyone seems to notice everything. I have a diamond ring that is a gift from an extended family member, and I’m concerned that since I have never worn diamonds in the past, if I wear this ring there may be gossip. People may say the rates or prices of our family business are too high, and so forth.

Despite the pettiness and inaccuracies of these assumptions, such comments, attitudes, and sometimes boycotting of one’s business is not unheard of. This is why some people in small communities are very careful regarding the clothing, housing, cars, sports equipment, etc. they display.

I am also wondering why the world has moved away from wearing large diamond rings - between one and three carats - these days. Do you suppose this is due to the trend toward casualness? Or is it something else: socialism, apology for hard work, success and serendipity of gifts others may not receive? Fear of theft?

I have debated just wearing a replica, or wearing the diamond but telling people it’s a replica.

Gentle Reader: Whether people are wearing larger or smaller diamond rings or none at all these days, Miss Manners is afraid she cannot say. She is far too polite to go around peering and assessing, as you assume everybody in your town is eager to do.

But here are the relevant rules about jewelry, some of which should frustrate busybodies and others of which will, Miss Manners is afraid, frustrate you and everybody else who owns or sells jewelry. (How to frustrate thieves would be even more relevant, but Miss Manners is afraid that you will have to seek advice elsewhere on that. Thieves tend not to be deterred by questions of propriety.)

With the exception of engagement rings - which friends are not just allowed but required to notice and exclaim over - and of wedding bands, diamonds are not properly worn during the day. This is not a tenet of socialism, but of etiquette: It is ostentatious to attempt to outshine the sun. Miss Manners is not saying she would sniff at a sentimental daughter wearing her deceased mother’s keepsake, but what you describe is vulgarly known as a cocktail ring, and it probably shouldn’t be out carousing before dusk.

You see by all this that it is improper to be flashy, but proper to be sentimental. So if you do often wear a ring that is startling by local standards, promise Miss Manners that your eyes will mist over when you are asked about it, and you will reply, “It’s a family ring.”

That conveniently deals with the question of whether the ring is a result of price gouging, and it is the only explanation you need offer. A lady never discusses the veracity or value of her jewelry. If someone says “What a pretty ring,” she says “Thank you.” If anyone asks whether it is real or how much it costs, she still says “Thank you,” because she is too polite to believe that she really heard what she thought she heard.

Dear Miss Manners: When is it proper to hyphenate two last names? I would prefer to use a hyphen between my deceased husband’s last name and my new husband’s last name.

Gentle Reader: Miss Manners can imagine that her predecessors in the noble calling of etiquette might have been alarmed at such a question. What could they suppose, except that they were receiving inquiries from a propriety-conscious bigamist?

Perhaps in the future, we will have a standardized naming system that will fit the complicated way we live, when it is understandable for a perfectly legal and respectable lady to want to take her second husband’s name and yet retain the identity - professional or with her children - from her first husband.

In the meantime, go right ahead with your add-on system.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate

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