Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"Carla's Wedding Band"- Object History

Although the original provenance of Carla's wedding band is unknown, according to Carla it was purchased in "a popular jewelry store" in the Cherry Hill Mall in the summer of 2005. As of September of 2010, there were seventeen businesses classified by the "Jewelry" category on the Cherry Hill Mall's website. It was part of a pair where one went to Carla and the other to her husband.

The function and meaning of the object evolved over time paralleling the failed marriage that it signified. Originally it was purchased as a sign of commitment--a common use for the band. Carla added that part of its function was "to prove to herself that she was serious about the marriage". As their engagement progressed, Carla became hesitant about the marriage and tried to return the band but was told it was too late by the jeweler. She decided to go on with the marriage and the band was part of the contract she had entered into. It went through the process many bands went through when it "became blessed, exchanged, and placed on the appropriate fingers", a somewhat rote characterization of the tradition by Carla. After three years, Carla's reservations about the marriage became fully realized with Carla moving into a new house during the dissolution of the marriage. Along with the move to a new house, she described removing the band as "the final symbol of the failing marriage".

Having been in a friends wedding about two months ago, the disparity in meaning between the band I held at that wedding and the one I held at the Art Sanctuary was striking. The wedding band I held in the wedding in Lancaster was an object with a future ahead of it. The traditional symbolic value of commitment between two people and function as a centerpiece of the marital ceremony were ascribed to it. The only exceptions I've been around otherwise have memorialized a significant other or relative who is deceased. Carla's wedding band was the first ring I've been around where it's been presented to me in this particular context with Carla describing the box it's in as a "coffin".

Where she once tried to sell it to at least recoup its monetary value before the marriage, she hasn't sold it after. Although any guess I'd have as to what it could mean now would be purely speculative, it clearly has some value to Carla outside of the ways that I've traditionally encountered. The band itself is simple without any ornamentation, but it clearly carries complex meaning to Carla.

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