My Nonie’s Engagement Ring: A Sentimental Treasure

I spent countless weekends at my Italian grandparent’s house in Los Gatos while growing up. I have so many vivid and cherished memories of the time spent there. Whenever my little brother and I would arrive, we’d run into my Nonie’s closet to get a piece of Chiclets gum she always had in her purse. Just typing that sentence, I can feel the crackly texture and whoosh of mint as I would bite into it. We loved to go feed the ducks and ride the train at Vasona Park, eat her mostaccioli with special sauce, and watch Lawrence Welk (while dancing on Nonno’s feet, of course!) . And I can’t even tell you how many games of horseshoes we played in the backyard, with the hand-made wooden score planks made by Nonno.

I know you won’t be surprised, but on certain special occasions, Nonie and I would quietly go into her modest bedroom (sans boys) and look at the treasures in her jewlery drawer. Though she did not have a valuable collection, each piece had sentimental meaning to her and was carefully separated with the terrycloth towel with which she lined the drawer. I loved listening to her tell me about the different pieces, who gave them to her, and where she wore them.

One of my most favorite pieces is her engagement ring…

nonie's engagement ring
Married back in 1927, my Nonie was only 16 years old when she became a bride!


Nonie and Nonno's wedding day
Nonie and Nonno’s wedding day

At one time, this ring had a center stone, but now it’s just a roughly worn piece of blue glass. They were very poor immigrants, and when the original stone (I’m assuming a sapphire) fell out, glass was the only thing they could replace it with. Nonie told me it got so worn and pitted from all the lye that was used in long-ago days doing laundry. Running a boarding house at one point early in their marriage and having three children, she did more than her share of laundry, to be sure.

Though this ring has no real monetary value, it’s one of my most treasured possessions. I wear it frequently, and I’m often asked questions about it. And whenever it’s on my finger, I truly feel like my Nonie is with me. I love her and miss her.


Nonie and Nonno were married for 67 years!!
Nonie and Nonno were married for 67 years!!

Do you have any treasured sentimental pieces in your jewelry box? I’d love to hear your story! Please send me a photo of your faves to [email protected]

12 thoughts on “My Nonie’s Engagement Ring: A Sentimental Treasure”

  1. Beautiful words Amy. Awww…little Nonni. She was one of my first introductions into the Ortolan family and welcomed me with open arms!!!

  2. how interesting that i read this after visiting my own gramma & grandpa’s grave sites today…loved this post…unfortunately i have none of my gramma’s jewelry…as she left it all behind when they immigrated here…but…i do have her singer sewing machine…which makes me smile everytime i look at it…as we had many a conversation while she was sewing…and i would sit and watch…and chit chat…SO miss those times…

  3. ok, that wedding picture is so beautiful! Your Nonnis hair is so gorgeous.
    One of the reasons I love having a jewelry store is that I get to witness the marking of major milestones with jewelry that can become family heirlooms.
    I loved this article!

    1. I’m so glad that you enjoyed it, Bess. I’m sure you’ve seen many milestones celebrated in your store. 🙂

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