In celebration of a milestone anniversary, a friend and her husband approached me to upgrade her engagement ring. They delved into her Chinese heritage for inspiration, and decided to incorporate one of the most romantic lines in ancient Chinese literature: 執子之手, 與子偕老 (zhí zǐ zhī shǒu, yǔ zǐ xié lǎo) which translates to "hand in hand, we will grow old together."
This beautiful sentiment is from the poem "Drumming" (擊鼓) from the Book of Songs (詩經), the first major collection of Chinese poetry ever assembled in one tome. Containing works dating from the 11th to 7th centuries B.C.E., the Book of Songs is believed to have been compiled by Confucius himself. The poem itself is framed in the context of soldiers valiantly fighting a losing battle, in which one soldier recalls his marital pledge to his wife that he would be with her til death. Although he worries that dying apart from her will break that oath, he is still shown as being eternally faithful to his commitments as he defends his platoon mates to the end of his life. These eight characters are famous in Chinese literature and culture as a statement of eternal and even heroic devotion.
We took the 1.12 carat center diamond and two baguettes out of her original engagement ring and added two more baguettes to the sides, which extended the shoulders of the ring enough to turn the line of poetry into the gallery that both supports the baguettes and allows light in from the sides. Rendered in seal script, from right to left one side reads 執子之手 and the other side reads 與子偕老. Because there's never too much sparkle, we also placed additional diamonds at the top of the shoulders where the shank meets the claw setting (which were really difficult to photograph!), and in the bottom corners of the shank (which are extended outward to create a concave outer surface that will stabilize the ring against her other fingers).