The only jewelry that I wear on a really regular basis (so regular, in fact, that I never take it off) is a tiny silver hoop in the top of my left ear, a gold toe ring of hearts that used to have colorful lacquer that has long since faded or worn off in the ocean, unchangeable piercing studs, and a silver band ring that says HOPE. Some days, when I’m in the mood, or when I’m not in the mood and I need to cheer myself up, I wear my diamond ring.

I only read part of Ann of Green Gables, but the part that has always stood out to me is Ann’s disappointment in diamonds:

I think amethysts are just sweet. They are what I used to think diamonds were like. Long ago, before I had ever seen a diamond, I read about them and I tried to imagine what they would be like. I thought they would be lovely glimmering purple stones. When I saw a real diamond in a lady’s ring one day I was so disappointed I cried. Of course, it was very lovely but it wasn’t my idea of a diamond.

I was around ten years old when I read it, and of course, I’d seen a diamond before. In fact, at age two, my mom let me play with (?!) her engagement ring and I dropped it down a vent in the floor. It’s a testament to my mother’s lack of sentimentality or affinity for diamonds that she allowed her toddler to play with and lose her ring, and a mother passes diamonds’ values down to her daughter–whether they’re a girl’s best friend or her worst enemy. Diamonds never impressed me, especially since they were supposed to impress me.

In my junior year of high school, ten years ago, I was inducted into the National Honor Society. I felt like I didn’t belong because NHS was for Smart Kids, not kids like me who were miserable perfectionists who had to work hard, who got 3.9 GPAs, but not 4.0s. I put on my long, shimmery maroon skirt and platform shoes (this was, after all, 1999) and my family came to see me accept my certificate and I took group photos with my friends and I pretended to be Smart. Afterward, my mom unceremoniously gave me a gift of congratulations. She had stayed up until 2:00 a.m. with me as I wrote research papers. She knew what it took to get my 3.9. And she handed me a thin platinum ring with 37 tiny diamonds inlaid around the band, engraved with “L.R.B.. & E.G.H. 11-1-47.” I’d seen my grandmother’s wedding ring sometime before. She was still alive, but her marriage wasn’t, so after sometime in the 1970s, the ring lost its meaning to her. My mother gave it new meaning: “I could save this for you and give it to you to use as your wedding ring someday. But I don’t want you to wait for a guy to give it to you. I want you to know that I’m proud of you today, on your own, for your accomplishments.”

Today, I was watching the diamonds sparkle in the sunlight like the crystals in Pollyanna, and it cheered me to think of my mother who IS sentimental and empowering; about her late mother, who told my mom when I was born, “You have to teach her how to be an activist”; and about 16-year-old me, who was smart, who is smart, and who believes it. And the ring could be cubic zirconia, for all I care, because there’s a lot more to it than just the stones.