Turkish Delight

During a 2008 family vacation in Istanbul, Turkey, I purchased this majestic, antique ring at the Grand Bazaar:

It features roughly cut diamonds of varying colors set in a blackened-metal crown with a tapered rose gold band. What I love so much about this piece is that, in its beauty, it is rough and imperfect and mysterious. This is no fussy diamond ring; this is a ring that has really lived.

Buying this ring was an unforgettable experience, and the memories of that day came flooding back to me recently, for reasons I’ll explain below.

One of the defining experiences of visiting the Grand Bazaar is haggling with its spirited vendors. You are all but laughed off the premises if you pay the initial asking price for anything. When it came time to negotiate the price of this ring, young Caroline–not yet the seasoned lawyer of today–was apprehensive and probably tripping over my words, failing to convey that believable “we-will-walk-away-from-this-purchase-right-now” energy. I can imagine my dad stepped in at some point to play hardball when it became clear I was in over my head. He must have said something about the less-than-perfect quality of the diamonds (which is actually the source of their charm, see above), because the next thing we knew, the salesman brought out his Hail Mary sales tool: “The Diamond Detector.”

It was a small machine featuring a dial with red and green markings and an attached metal rod. When he pressed the rod tip to the stones, the dial needle shot to green and a cheerful beep was heard. “See, diamonds detected!” he said, gleefully.

This machine seemed so impossibly simple, so far-fetched as an actual scientific instrument, that we didn’t know how to argue with its results. I bought the ring, never really knowing with absolute certainty if the diamonds are real. In the end, it didn’t really matter.

Fast forward to this past fall. I began purging my home of things I no longer used or loved, including jewelry. I listed a vintage ring with diamond accents on the Facebook marketplace, and was super excited when a prospective buyer pinged me almost immediately to see the piece in person.

We met in a nearby parking lot to do the exchange. Standing between our respective cars, hidden from view, it felt like a drug deal. “You got the ring?” He whispered. “Yeah, I got it right here,” I said, discreetly pulling the box out of my jacket pocket. “There’s one thing I gotta do first before I give you the money,” he said. And with that, he pulled a diamond detector machine out of his pocket to test the stones. I wanted to laugh–thinking about that day many years ago in the Grand Bazaar–but also instantly got nervous, wondering if my ring might be exposed as a fake. He pressed the rod to the ring, and it beeped. His face didn’t reveal whether it was a good beep or a bad beep. But it must have been good, because before I knew it, there was a stack of cash in my hand, and he was gone.

Diamonds detected, indeed.

Here are some rings with a similar look:

Brilliant Earth, Morganite Lotus Flower Ring ($2,400):

Victorian 0.97 Carat Diamond Gold Cluster Engagement Ring ($5,250), available at 1stdibs.com:

Jessica McCormack, Oval Sapphire and Diamond Halo Ring (price available upon request):

Edwardian Sparkling Diamond Daisy Ring ($2,530.50):

Sundance, Vintage Rose Ring ($1,100):


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