One of a Kind: The Sentimental Story Behind Lucille Ball’s Distinctive Engagement Ring

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In the film Being the Ricardos, starring Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, viewers get an inside look at the personal and professional lives of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The iconic American comedian and Cuban bandleader, who portrayed the beloved couple Mr. and Mrs. Ricardo on the hit show I Love Lucy from 1951 to 1957, gained significant influence in Hollywood during their tenure on the show, making them a constant target for tabloid attention.

While watching the film, one standout element that caught my attention (and likely many others’) was the stunning engagement ring worn by Nicole Kidman, which featured a large emerald-cut aquamarine stone. Although the movie does not provide any specific details about the ring, its unique choice sparked my curiosity, leading me to discover that it was indeed based on a ring worn by Lucille Ball herself.

In her autobiography Love, Lucy, Lucille Ball shared a story about her wedding rings, although it does not explicitly mention the origin of the engagement ring. When the couple eloped in 1940, they decided to get married on a Saturday in Connecticut. In the haste and excitement of the moment, Desi bought Lucy a brass ring from Woolworth’s. Despite its modest nature, Lucy cherished the sentimental value of the ring and kept it in her collection for many years.

At a later point, Lucille Ball acquired an emerald-shaped aquamarine ring, which perfectly complemented her striking red hair. The transition from natural brunette to vibrant redhead, a suggestion from one of the studios, enhanced her overall style and persona.

The size of the stone in Lucy’s engagement ring was quite substantial, possibly exceeding 30 carats or more. However, the identity of the jeweler who created or sold the ring remains a mystery.

Lucy’s devoted fans have developed various theories regarding the origin of the ring. Some speculate that Desi purchased the aquamarine to match Lucy’s vibrant blue eyes, while others believe Lucy acquired the ring for herself. It is reasonable to assume that Lucy had a hand in selecting such a unique and distinctive engagement ring.

Technically, the jewel that Lucy wore as an engagement ring was classified as a cocktail ring. However, she transformed its meaning by wearing it on the third finger of her left hand.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Brazil’s mines produced an abundance of large semiprecious stones such as aquamarines, citrines, and amethysts. These stones became the centerpiece of bold and retro-style gold jewelry, often featuring modernist metal swooshes and cocktail rings.

In that era, numerous Hollywood actresses, including Lucy, prominently showcased their extravagant aquamarine rings in publicity stills. For example, in the 1941 film Look Who’s Laughing, Lucy paired her engagement ring with costume jewels from Joseff of Hollywood. (In Being the Ricardos, a recreation of the Joseff torque fringe necklace is featured.)

Unfortunately, the fate of Lucille Ball’s aquamarine engagement ring is quite unfortunate. It was reportedly stolen, along with other jewelry, from her hotel room in Chicago. The exact timing of the robbery remains unclear. However, photographs of Lucy show her wearing the ring until at least the 1953 Emmys. Lucy and Desi divorced in 1960.

Although Lucille Ball was not particularly known for her extensive jewelry collection, she did acquire some remarkable pieces later in life, including items from Van Cleef & Arpels. One notable Van Cleef jewel from her collection was a Maltese Cross pendant, created in 1972 and adorned with onyx, emeralds, and diamonds. The pendant eventually became part of the Van Cleef & Arpels Heritage Collection and was featured in a mini-exhibition of historic Hollywood jewels at the Beverly Hills Van Cleef & Arpels boutique in 2015.

By the time Lucy began shopping at Van Cleef, she had taken over Desilu Productions, becoming the first woman to run a major television studio. Under her leadership, the studio produced several successful shows, including Mission Impossible and Star Trek.

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