I am a founding board member of a very special Laura Ingalls Wilder research organization (LIWLRA) and I occasionally blog at our site Beyond Little House. The following is one of my favorite blog posts from 2009. You can see the original post here.
Laura held her hand up to the first light of the new moon. The gold of the ring and its flat oval set shone shone in the faint moon radiance. Three small stones set in the golden oval glimmered...a garnet, with a pearl on each side.Reading those words about the engagement ring that Almanzo gave Laura sealed my fate. I've been on a quest for that ring ever since.
~Laura Ingalls Wilder, in These Happy Golden Years
I bought my first garnet ring while still in high school. While the garnet and pearl combination was popular during the Victorian years, it's not easily found in modern jewelry so that first ring was silver with a garnet and two tiny diamonds on either side. Although I cherished it at the time, deep in my heart I knew it wasn't authentic. The search went on.
Back in the dark ages, before internet auction sites, there were antique stores. I had a little more luck there, I found a lovely ring with three garnets and six pearls. Okay, not quite the ring but I was getting closer.
Then came the Internet and suddenly my search was made so much easier. There was a plethora of antique garnet and pearl rings available to buy. Went a little crazy. If what they say is true that three or more of anything is a collection, I have a collection of garnet and pearl rings.
This is just a small sampling of some of the rings that have found their way into my life. None are exactly right, which is why I kept searching those auction sites, usually late at night when it's very easy to talk yourself into something even though it isn't exactly what you're looking for.
And yet, the constant searching for "garnet pearl ring" paid off not too long ago. I found a listing for a ring made in 1884 (the year Almanzo and Laura got engaged) featuring a center garnet flanked by a pearl on each side. The setting is flat and best of all, it was the perfect size to fit on my index finger. Why is that important, you ask? Because Laura describes wearing her engagement ring on her "first" finger. In The First Four Years she actually uses the word "index" finger. It doesn't appear to be a common practice; in all my research I've never uncovered any evidence that people commonly used the index finger for engagement rings. Since Ida's "broad circlet of gold" was on her first finger too, maybe it was a De Smet custom.
So you see where I'm going with this, don't you? Even though I already had 1 or 2...or 10, garnet and pearl rings lying around, I had to get this new one. It was made in 1884, was the perfect style and fit my index finger. It was a sign, I tell you. Well, at least that's what I told my husband. I also told him that I would stop searching for "garnet pearl ring" on the Internet...and I will, soon. ;-)