No matter how much I try to move on after my break-up, almost a year later I still feel sad that my engagement ended. I left my fiance during the first lockdown, in what seemed to both of us to be a sudden end, as flaming rows became claustrophobic then ultimately unsolvable.
Having spent the following months smashing up, then reassembling my life – selling my London flat and panic-moving to Land's End – there was one loose end I had yet to tie up: what to do with my engagement ring.
Since I left my fiance, my engagement ring has been festering in a friend's safe. I don't want to wear it – it holds too many memories and isn't a great look on Tinder dates.
I offered to send it back to my ex, in lieu of throwing it at him. He told me he didn't want it either. Gold was never his colour.
So, for a while I toyed with selling it. I had a vague plan to put it on eBay and buy myself a labradoodle – though with a value by my guesstimation of anything between £500 and £1000, it might not have even covered the cost of a sought-after lockdown puppy. But when it came to actually parting with it, taking money for something that had once held so much love and hope just felt too depressing – like too sad an ending to what was already a failed love story.
I thought about how my fiance and I had bought the ring together; shopping for it arm-in-arm in Hatton Garden, kissing as we stopped at jewellers' windows as he asked me which bands I liked the most. He'd already proposed a few weeks earlier with a "placeholder" but wanted us to choose the final ring I wore together.
It was not the most expensive – not a big flash diamond, which he couldn't afford – but I loved it because it came from him. A beautiful, shining light blue, oval cut aquamarine set with two diamonds on a gold band – filled with the promise of how much he loved me and the family we would build together.
Someone suggested I could have the jewels taken out and turned into a necklace but the blue stone is so distinctive, and I knew that every time I put it on I'd feel a tug of missing him.
I was feeling quite gloomy about what to do with the ring, so I rang a divorced friend to ask what she had done with hers. She told me she still wore it, but then explained she had given her designer bridal dress away to another young couple struggling to pay for their wedding.
It seemed such a gorgeous thing to do. And I suddenly had a wave of imagining another person putting on my ring, feeling as thrilled as I had when I first wore it. In the whole sorry saga of my break-up, it was the first time I had felt real glee. I decided there and then that I'd give the ring away to another couple, so they could find the happiness we never did.
The more I thought about the idea, the more it made sense. In the scheme of things, I've had a pretty okay pandemic, but so many other people are struggling: with grief, lack of money, unemployment and ill health. In a way, Covid has shown us just how we need each other. It seemed like a tiny difference I could make to someone else's life.
At first, I tried googling charities that might take the ring but I loved the thought of it going straight to a couple. I felt it would be worth more that way and, selfishly, rather like the idea of a thread of joy between us. I decided to ask on Twitter if anyone wanted it.
One cynical friend suggested that people might just spin a yarn, take it and flog it. But I like to think that when you put good vibes out in the world, others generally respect them. Another cynic suggested that my old ring might spell bad karma for a new couple. But I don't believe that either. When I first put it on, I felt nothing but love, and that's the spirit in which my fiance gave it to me. Besides, a ring is what you make of it.
So I tweeted that I wanted to give the ring away. Then the messages started coming in.
A young man wrote, telling me that his mother had spotted my post. He and his partner had a child last year and he hadn't been able to afford to buy her a ring.
Someone else messaged to say their sister's boyfriend was desperately saving up to buy her a ring, but the pandemic and furlough had made it impossible. Her sister had worried when she found out what he was planning, because their family could put the money to so much better use.
Another man nervously messaged, asking if my offer was serious or a joke. He didn't want to tell me a "sob story" but looking at his Twitter profile, I saw he had suffered a stroke. He was engaged to his girlfriend but they didn't have a ring – she wore a piece of "cheap costume jewellery" (his words). "I'm sure there are more deserving people than myself," he wrote.
One person contacted me, saying they were looking for a new ring after having been married for 23 years. They were planning to renew their vows but their engagement ring was locked in the safe, and they'd lost the key and combination.
A former postmistress replied to my tweet. She had been wrongly accused in the appalling Post Office Scandal – a story I'd actually met her through, when I covered it in-depth for a newspaper. "I actually forgot my nightmare of a life for a couple of days and married the person who got me through it; we've just celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and I'm looking for a new ring to celebrate," she said.
I sent them all pictures of the ring. "It's absolutely beautiful," a few replied, and I felt a buzz again at someone else enjoying it. I wished I had 50 rings to give away.
Unexpectedly, I also got other funny messages from people telling me what they'd done with their own rings after break-ups. One women told me she'd thrown hers out of her car window with Brimful of Asha blaring on the radio because she was "half-mad" after her ex told her he was leaving. "The rings felt a mockery," she said, "but inanimate objects are just symbols. I regret it. If you love the ring itself, keep it."
Another woman told me she'd sold her engagement ring to pay her mortgage. Someone else had her late husband's wedding ring, plus her wedding and engagement rings, made into a bracelet.
One man asked if he could buy mine and propose to me with it. I assume he was kidding.
With every message that came I felt lighter. I don't want to bang on about it, but the truth is that not marrying my ex is one of the saddest things that has ever happened to me. I had invested my heart in our future and the idea of our little family. I imagined I would wear the beautiful ring he'd given me for the rest of my life, and look over it at him when we got old and my fingers were filled with rings from all the children we had. But it wasn't to be.
And in the heartbreak of that, it does feel joyful, knowing there might be a good end for our ring. Besides, giving it away leaves my hand free for a giant diamond from the next person who asks. I haven't decided who to give it to yet; it feels impossible to choose. Although I do hope they'll send me a picture – and name their first-born child Katie.