(Relationships)

My Husband Picked Out My Engagement Ring Years Before We Met

It has such a special story.

By Sara Larson
courtesy of Sara Larson
Sara Larson engagement ring

I’ve been married almost 14 years, and during this time my husband Gunnar has given me some beautiful and sentimental pieces of jewelry. But to this day, my absolute favorite gift is the untraditional engagement ring he proposed with. It’s a tension set stone in a thick band, which gives it a significant presence on my hand, and also marries the masculine/feminine vibe that I look for in jewelry. Over the years I’ve had so many people stop me and ask me where it’s from and what does it mean. Much like the will-they-won’t-they trajectory of our early relationship, my answer feels like something straight out of a rom-com: Gunnar had actually picked out the piece several years before meeting me.

Our love story started in Mr. Kelton’s communication class. I asked what the homework was. He looked up at me with these bright blue eyes under wire-rimmed round glasses with mid-length ombre blonde hair parted in the middle. Wearing braces and a yellow hoodie that said Wyoming, he said, “What?”

“What was the homework?,” I repeated.

It was 2003, and I had just moved back home to Missouri to finish my undergrad after a semester abroad in London. Before this, I’d spend my weekends at Big Ben wandering around museums, and nights discovering the gentle greatness of the city — discovering myself. I had just been rashly engaged, and unengaged, at age 21 to someone much older. As I settled back into school stateside, my classmate Gunnar soon became my haven and closest confidante. After school and work (I was juggling two jobs with a full curriculum), I’d go straight to his apartment to study in the evenings. He had a laptop and was a graphics wizard. But we were always just friends, nothing more.

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On my 30th birthday courtesy of Sara Larson
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The day we found out I was pregnantcourtesy of Sara Larson
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The next couple of years we went our separate ways. I was in Australia for several months, and during that time away, Gunnar moved to London (ships passing in the night!). I thought of him often, wondering if he was the “one” and if we would ever end up together. The idea of this would flee as fast as it came. The distance, the uncertainty of when we would ever see each other again — I tucked all those thoughts away.

When I returned to the United States, fresh off a bad breakup, I received a call from Gunnar one night, sharing that he was in town (I was in Washington D.C. at the time). He asked if I wanted to go to this party with him. I remember feeling strangely nervous as I was going to see him, but quickly thought: it’s just Gunnar, my dearest friend. I ran up to him and jumped into his arms for a hug, just like we would always do, and something felt electric. I couldn’t explain it. We left the party and went for a drive. We talked for what felt like hours, but before this, there was a moment where I “saw” him for the first time. I knew he was my guy, and I knew he felt it, too. Neither of us dared to say anything and went back to our lives. By the following spring, we had started talking for several hours a day from opposites sides of the Atlantic. It got to a place where we both asked: What are we doing? Is this real or are we imagining this life we could build together?

Gunnar and I today.courtesy of Sara Larson

Within months Gunnar left his job in London to be with me in the States and proposed the second day he was here. It was so chill and casual, the most perfect evening, just him and I. He told me he had something in his pocket and asked if I wanted to see it first or hear the story — obviously, I wanted to see it! He then pulled out a ring and told me that he found it as a teenager visiting Mexico with a friend. He loved the piece so much he saved it to propose to his future wife one day. Then he asked me to marry him; it was a beautiful moment, more than I can put into words. The band fit perfectly, like it had been made for my finger, and the rest is history!

Fast forward two decades (and having two children) together, I wanted to recreate, modernize, and celebrate the continuation of our love with a custom version of the original ring. My friend jeweler Bliss Lau has always been integral in these very special pieces in my life. Bliss is a jewelry whisperer; her designs are full of emotion unique to the wearer. She’s based in downtown New York and really embodies the heart of the city with her pieces. I love that she has a dedicated practice in her design studio focused on listening to people, learning about what they care about, and building a custom creation to culminate all of those things into a new living memory.

I shared the story of our proposal and the ring with her. She took that inspiration and designed a custom “Loyalist” ring with an elegant framework that pays homage to the sleek and simple band Gunnar gave me all those years ago. Bliss found a way to tangibly capture my love for Gunnar with a physical ring that melds my devotion to him with a single stone, representing our lifetime of connection.

A side by side of my original ring (left) and Bliss Lau’s updated version (right).courtesy of Sara Larson

I didn’t want a totally new look, just for my ring to share the essence of the original design while better reflecting the woman I am today. I sent Bliss a few photos for inspiration, and after listening (intently) to our love story, she began to immediately sketch a concept that was exactly what I never would have known I wanted. (In other words, it’s completely perfect.) Bliss’s gift for creating bespoke jewelry is a true art form. I couldn’t have chosen a better suited designer to capture this memory. Once she finished the sketch, she then crafted a three-dimensional rendering of the ring exactly, customized to my finger, so I could envision it before the final version was created. This made me feel at ease and excited, as I knew exactly what my final band would look like: amazing!

I am such a romantic and dreamer. I can’t wait to share this story with our kids, and love the thought of one of them wearing this ring someday or proposing to their future partner with it. I hope they take this heirloom of love full circle.