Although the details of wedding-ring customs vary, the underlying symbolism of constancy and love is the same. So a damaged ring can be a source of considerable distress.
Constant reminder on hand
For Arabs in general, and perhaps Muslims in particular, the wedding-ring tradition is slightly different from the western way. A boy proposing marriage by offering a girl a ring is more of a modern concept. Instead, our traditional expectation is that the boy will ask for his girl's hand in marriage from her family, whether the couple have known one another for three years or three days.
Once permission has been granted and they are considered "engaged", the couple go ring-shopping together, for bands that will be firmly placed on the ring fingers of their right hands until their wedding day. During the wedding's celebration, and in front of the guests, the couple help one another switch the rings from the right to the left, to signify that they are now wed.
When it was my turn to go ring-shopping with Mr T, the hunt for that symbolic piece of jewellery was no easy feat. I had never put much thought into the style of a ring I would be wearing for the rest of my life, regardless of my outfit, so we were starting from scratch, with no dreams or preferences to guide us.
Let's just find something we can live with, I said to Mr T. It's just a ring that we're forced to buy, thanks to tradition; I wished I could ask for diamond studs instead, but no such luck.
Which is why it took me quite by surprise to realise that I am never without the matching set of two rings that we ended up choosing. I only ever take them off when I shower. I had expected I'd take them off when I washed dishes, slathered lotion all over my hands and arms, kneaded dough - all those activities that demand I take off my watch or remove the large cocktail ring I usually like to wear on the middle finger of my right hand.
But it never occurs to me to take off my wedding rings and a round callous has formed, right under the spot where my finger joins my palm. It must be a result of the protruding diamond digging in every time the ring swivels around, and I have a special affinity for that callous. It means my ring has dug a home for itself, literally. I love rubbing my thumb over the rough spot, comforted by its being there.
Mr T seems to hold a particular fondness for my rings as well. He twiddles with them when my hand is in his, and his smile is proud when he catches me admiring my sparkling jewellery, which I still do quite often.
This past weekend, I noticed that one of the tiny diamonds had fallen off one of my rings, and the devastation I felt was both unexpected and quite severe. I felt almost as if my most prized possession had been defiled.
The ring is at the jeweller's now - a jeweller who received quite an earful from one very disgruntled customer. I will take better care of it once it returns, and at least wear rubber gloves when washing dishes in order to protect it. Because I doubt I'll be able to remove it and set it aside when doing my chores. I feel too bare without it.