Have you ever looked at your treasured ring and had that awful moment...?
The Lost Diamond
What’s that piece of dirt on my ring?
I was carrying two bags of shopping from the supermarket and happened to glance down at the diamond ring I wore on my right-hand middle finger. I flicked the piece of black fluff but it stayed there. To my horror I realised it was a hole where the main central diamond should have been.
Looked again, disbelieving. But it was true. Somehow the diamond had become dislodged and dropped out. I felt sick.
Tears threatening, I backtracked, head down, trying to glimpse anything that sparkled. The car park was huge; I knew I was attempting the impossible, but I searched on, desperate. A sudden flash of sparkling light. Could I be that lucky? A speck of tin foil. Ten times damn. Despair and guilt swept over me. My elderly friend, Pamela, had kept it safe for six decades and entrusted me with it a year before she’d died at ninety-five.
‘I want to see you wearing it when you come to visit in three weeks’ time,’ she’d said on the phone at the nursing home in Newcastle, ‘so I’ll pack it up and send it to you.’
‘No, don’t do that,’ I said, having no idea at the time of the value. ‘You can give it to me in person. I’ll look forward to it.’
A few days later a small brown parcel arrived. I didn’t have to sign for it – it just plopped through the letterbox with bills and junk mail. I picked it up, curious. There was no return address.
Grabbing the scissors I snipped through the higgledy-piggledy layers of brown paper and card secured with band upon band of sticky tape. Inside a final layer of newspaper was a tiny navy-blue leather box – very old and faded. Pamela! She’d sent it after all. A box of this age would probably not contain the pretty dress ring I’d envisaged. I opened the little silver catch and lifted the lid. Nestled in its slot was the most ostentatious-looking diamond ring: enormous, oval-shaped, in a typical Victorian setting. There must be at least forty diamonds, I guessed; one very large one in the centre which flashed a hundred colours under the overhead sitting room light. I was mesmerised by its size and beauty.
Eventually, I picked up the note folded inside the box.
My dear Denise,
Here is the ring I want you to have. It was my grandmother’s and I’ll explain more when I see you. It will need cleaning and probably should be checked that all the stones are safe. Take it to a good jeweller. I will pay for it.
You most definitely won’t, I thought.
So eager to see you soon, and wearing the ring.
Your loving friend
I knew nothing about good jewellery, never having had boyfriends (or husbands!) with eager hands fastening strings of pearls around my neck, or pinning jewelled brooches on the lapels of my jackets, or slipping gold bracelets over my slender wrists. To own a ring like this was a novelty. It left me with a warm glow that someone dear to me had given it to me to wear. But where should I take it to be checked and cleaned?
‘You’ve got the Queen’s jewellers right here in Tunbridge Wells, so if it’s good enough for her, it’ll be good enough for you!’ a knowledgeable acquaintance advised me. She knew about diamonds.
I trotted off down the old High Street. The gentleman serving me took the ring out of its little box, his large fingers handling it with the greatest delicacy.
‘This is a very special ring,’ he said, as he peered through his eyeglass. ‘A valuable one. Lovely setting – mid-Victorian, I’d say. Needs a good clean.’ He looked up at me and shook the ring in my ear.
‘Can you hear anything?’
It sounded like the rattling of grains of sand. I nodded, horrified.
‘Several loose stones,’ he said, ‘but we can soon fix them.’
I tried not to show alarm at the approximate cost of the repair and clean, and left it with him. He promised he would get it back to me within a fortnight.
‘So long as I’m wearing it when I go to see the lady who gave it to me in two-and-a-half weeks’ time,’ I told him.
The day came to pick up my ring. When the same gentleman flipped the lid of the box open I could hardly believe it was my ring. I’d thought it had twinkled every colour possible but this was stunning. And no rattling. Every stone was safe, he assured me. I gladly handed over the £450 when he showed me the valuation certificate. I couldn’t risk losing it, so I would never remove it – not for a moment.
‘I knew it would suit you,’ Pamela said, when I arrived at her bedside. She was smiling at me as I spread my fingers out for her to admire the ring. ‘It was my grandmother’s. My grandfather was training to be a surgeon and told my grandmother as he slipped a cheap little ring on her finger, that he would buy her something better when he was qualified. And that’s the ring he chose.
‘Did your mother ever wear it?’ I asked.
‘No, she didn’t.’
‘Oh, no,’ Pamela said. ‘They’d think you were being swanky up here in Newcastle, but you’ll be all right in Royal Tunbridge Wells.’ She chuckled heartedly.
I hadn’t insured the ring because I knew I would never take it off, so there was no possibility I could lose it, and even if I did, it would be pointless buying another with the insurance money. It wouldn’t be Pamela’s. Her ring reminded me of her whenever I glanced down – which I did even more frequently since she’d died.
And now I’d lost the main diamond. She must be looking down, muttering how careless I was.
Still crying, I went back into the supermarket and walked slowly up and down the aisles, desperately searching for a sparkling stone. But there was nothing. I went to customer service and poured out my sad little story. The sympathetic assistant pushed a piece of paper and pen towards me and asked me to write down my contact details.
‘I’m offering a reward,’ I said, and added on the note: I will give £250 to anyone who finds it.
‘If you find it,’ the nice customer service lady said, ‘you will let us know?’
‘Yes, of course, although I doubt you’ll be hearing from me. But you never know – a customer or cleaner or shelf-packer might spot it.’
I turned away before I started blubbing again.
When I got home I found my husband in the study. He swivelled round in his chair but didn’t notice my tear-stained face.
‘Did you have a nice time in London?’
I didn’t answer – just stuck my hand out.
‘Oh, no. Where—?’
‘In the supermarket,’ I sobbed. ‘Or it might have been on the train. I don’t know. I’ll never get it back. I told them in the supermarket I’d give a £250 reward but they said—’
‘Have you looked in the car?’
‘I can’t look anywhere else. I’m tired of looking. I’m going to put the kettle on and have a cup of tea.’ I gazed at him imploringly. ‘Will you have a look?’
He nodded and I handed him the keys. Within a minute he was back.
‘How much did you say that reward was?’ he smirked.
He held out his fist, fingertips side up and slowly opened it. In his palm lay the diamond. I stared, dumbfounded, almost as shocked as when I’d discovered I’d lost it. And then I gave him a big happy hug and told him how clever he was.
‘Careful.’ He pretended to back off and dropped the flashing diamond into my cupped hand.
I gulped back the tears.
‘I’ll be claiming my £250,’ he said in a firm tone.
‘What about if I cook you a special supper tonight and we walk up to the village shop tomorrow morning and I buy you the Telegraph.
‘Let’s see,’ he said. ‘The Telegraph is £1.60. So I’ll still have £248.40 left to spend.’ He looked at me and grinned. ‘Okay, it’s a deal.’
I conveniently forgot about the £248.40. He seemed happy enough with his head buried in the Telegraph crossword. Sometimes it’s better to keep quiet.
I went back to the Queen’s jewellers to let them reset the diamond.
‘I must say I wouldn’t have expected it to have fallen out after I’d paid a lot of money to have you repair it,’ I said to an assistant I’d not met before.
‘When did you first bring this in?’
‘It must be two years ago – maybe two-and-a-half.’
She pursed her lips as she tapped on her computer.
‘No, it was five years ago,’ she said almost triumphantly. ‘Actually, we recommend a clean and check every year and tell our customers to come in around their birthday so they remember. If you stick to this routine, you won’t have any further problem.’
Duly humbled, I beat a retreat under her supercilious stare. But in June I will be taking the ring for its annual trip to the Queen’s special shop in Tunbridge Wells.
© Denise Barnes
Denise writes fiction under the names of Fenella Forster for The Voyagers trilogy: Annie's Story, Juliet's Story and Kitty's Story; and Molly Green for the Dr Barnardo's series: An Orphan in the Snow (pub. 30 Nov), An Orphan's War (pub. May 2018) and An Orphan's Wish (pub. 2018-19).
DENISE BARNES has unpacked her suitcase in several countries, selling lipstick in a Denver store, modelled in Atlanta, assisted the UN Narcotics Director in Geneva, chauffeured a Swiss multi-millionaire in Zurich, assisted a famous film producer in the UK, and cooked in a sanatorium in Bavaria. These life-changing events have found their way into many of her stories, both fiction and non-fiction. In 2008 she self-published from Bad to Wurst: Bavarian Adventures of a Veggie Cook, a light-hearted travel memoir of her experience in Germany in the seventies.
Denise set up and ran her own chain of estate agents for 17 years and in 2005 sold (unwittingly!) to two conmen. She wrote her nightmare story Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business, as a warning on how easily one can be conned (Biteback Publishing 2013).
The Voyagers trilogy – a saga stretching from 1913 – 2012 was written under the pseudonym Fenella Forster. Book 1: Annie’s Story (pub. 2015) and Book 2: Juliet’s Story (pub. 2016) are both set mainly in Australia in 1913 and 2005 respectively. Book 3: Kitty’s Story (pub. 2017) is set mainly in Cairo in 1941. Each novel is a standalone although they are linked by the family generations.
Denise contributed to the USA best-selling ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ series in their anthology The Joy of Less (pub. 2016). Denise’s story, The Challenge, was a featured highlight of Good Morning, America.
Last year HarperCollins asked her if she would write a series set in an orphanage in Liverpool in WWII and she jumped at the opportunity. Under the pseudonym Molly Green, the first is An Orphan In The Snow (pub. 30 Nov 2017); the second is An Orphan’s War (pub. May 2018); and the third is An Orphan’s Wish (pub. 2018-19).
As a full-time writer she now lives with her husband in a village near Tunbridge Wells, Kent and is lucky to have a writing cabin in the garden, where she is ably assisted by her adorable rescued white cat, Dougal.
Find out more:
BUY THE BOOKS HERE
Find out more:
BUY THE BOOKS HERE
The Voyager Series
(writing as Fenella Forster)
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the Dr Barnardo's series
Denise writing as Molly Green
the Dr Barnardo's series
Denise writing as Molly Green
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