Julie Romanenko spends a lot of time scouring flea markets for forgotten-about treasures to incorporate into her line, so imagine her surprise when an aunt approached her about reimagining the luster of a longtime family heirloom.
“My Aunt Joyce showed me a ring of my grandmother’s, and oh what a story it told!” says the designing force behind Just Jules in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The ring is a vintage Victorian number with a 3 ct. old mine–cut center stone with myriad rose-cut diamonds. The piece was given to Romanenko’s grandmother by her grandfather upon their engagement, but not before he tried to give her another ring—a marquise-shape diamond that he had given to a former fiancée who broke off their engagement. (Turns out the other woman questioned Romanenko’s grandfather’s commitment to her: When she asked him whom he would save first in an emergency, her or his mother, he said his mother.)
“My grandmother hated that ring and never wore it!” recalls Romanenko. “ ‘I am not second best,’ she would claim. ‘I want a ring of my own.’ ”
So that’s when Grandpa bought her the ring with the round center, though the marquise still stayed in the family. Grandpa used the marquise several times as business collateral during the Depression, ultimately building up a successful real estate operation. Today, the marquise ring belongs to Romanenko’s mother, “who hates it for a completely different reason,” says the designer.
Romanenko’s grandparents and her grandmother’s round diamond ring
A closeup of the ring
And while Romanenko’s aunt didn’t dislike the round ring, which her mother gave to her, Aunt Joyce asked her niece to remove the center and make it into a necklace, leaving the mounting available for a new stone. This is when Romanenko learned of the ring’s scandalous past.
“I was surprised to hear about a ring that I had not really known about,” she says. “Jewelry was an important part of my grandmother’s life, and we talked about it often, right up until her passing. But I didn’t recall ever talking about this particular piece.”
Meanwhile, Aunt Joyce added her own drama to the provenance of the round ring when when she married a politician in the 1950s, later wearing the ring to JFK’s inauguration—the very last time the ring had been worn before Romanenko refashioned it.
“This ring went to the inauguration of John F. Kennedy!” exclaims Romanenko. “Now I have the honor of redoing it to create more stories with! My aunt loves the whole idea of it having yet another life.”
The reworked round ring now features an emerald set in an 18k yellow gold bezel, while the 3 ct. diamond rests in a 14k white gold pendant necklace.
The 3 ct. old mine–cut diamond center from the round ring reset into a pendant necklace
The reworked round diamond ring, now with an emerald center stone and yellow gold
“I love the look of mixed metal, especially the richness of 18k gold with the emerald,” adds Romanenko. “I also think it updated the ring a bit.”
Would Romanenko’s grandmother, who has since died, like the reinvented ring? Probably. “Apparently, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree,” observes the designer.
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