Behind the Bling: A Mother's Ring
This is Daniella with her mom, Jacqueline. Ever since Daniella was little, she's been enamored with engagement rings and the stories behind them. This is the story of her mother’s ring.
The story begins in Switzerland. Daniella's great-grandmother, Yvonne met an Italian engineer named Aldo at a party. At first she wasn't particularly interested - it was her mother that convinced her what a catch Aldo was and that she should give him a chance. They started dating and the two fell in love. He proposed to her with a simple iron ring and they got married in 1935. They their daughter, Gabriella, a year later in Rome.
Left: A portrait of their daughter Gabriella | Right: A portrait of their daughter Gabriella
As Mussolini came to power and anti-semitic laws passed, they were forced to flee in order to escape religious persecution. They heard that in neighboring countries, Jewish residents were being sent to camps and they feared for their daughter. Yvonne formed a plan: she and Gabriella would go to Switzerland immediately since she was a Swiss citizen and Aldo would join them once he got a visa.
Yvonne had learned that border guards could seize any items of those fleeing persecution. She had small diamonds and other jewelry passed down to her from her relatives and she feared they would be taken. So, she sewed the diamonds and jewelry into the hem of her clothes. Scared and hopeful for a new life, she and Gabriella traveled by rail and foot to Switzerland.
Soon after Aldo came to Switzerland, they went to the United States to start a new life. Aldo began working as a custodian and later found work as an engineer again. Yvonne volunteered as a translator for the Council on Foreign Relations. She taught diplomats at the State Department French and Italian. Yvonne was very well educated for her time: she had a college degree, spoke many languages and deeply cared about diplomacy. In 1942, Aldo proposed to Yvonne again, this time with a diamond ring. It was a symbol of their triumph together.
He had the ring set at Fornari Jewelers in Rome, surrounded by the diamonds Yvonne hid in the hem of her coat. This is the same ring that Daniella's dad used to propose to Jacqueline. They got married in 1990.
Left: Jacqueline on her wedding day, wearing Yvonne’s ring
Right: Daniella with her mom and Yvonne, celebrating her 86th birthday
Left to right: Daniella’s sister (Azza), mom (Jacqueline), Daniella, and grandmother (Gabriella).
We asked Jacqueline about the meaning of her ring. This is what she said:
"I feel love and respect for her, and her life as an immigrant, translator, and wife. She was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. I feel connected to the sacrifices she made to give our family a better life and am grateful for her strength, facing the hurdles of anti-Semitism in her home. It is more than a ring when I wear it. It’s the story and legacy of a special woman who came before me, wrapped around my finger. It reminds me that a strong woman endures through time."
- Jacqueline Cohen