The ring from Rajasthan

warrior caste rajasthani silver ring with amethyst gemstone

As a budget world traveler in early retirement, I have few possessions. I live out of a backpack, basically. But I want to share a personal story about the ring from Rajasthan, and how it found its way onto my finger one dusty, desert afternoon.

The Universe directs me and the spouse Theo to the home of a ninth generation jeweler in Jaisalmer. He invites us inside to see his collection. 

ellen, man, cow in a dusty street

The jeweler is Dharmendra Soni. “Call me Soni,” he says.

Soni talks about his father, his father’s father, and beyond, about how they all worked with silver and gold jewelry. After nine generations, he is proud of his extensive, enormous collection.

He buys many pieces from desert families. Soni also travels to India’s border to buy pure silver from the Pakistani mines for his own jewelry creations.

He’s featured in an American book titled Enduring Splendor: Jewelry of India’s Thar Desert. Soni went to Los Angeles before the pandemic to sell some of his gold and silver works.

Once Theo sees Soni’s collection and its many pieces for sale, he sets out to find me a ring. A gift — for the first time in … years. 

I typically discourage gifts. I’d rather we spend money on travel experiences and charity— not stuff. Sometimes that stance can be tryingly tough, however, as I dream of having an iPhone that properly works, or a new laptop that is not literally falling apart. Years ago, I even declined an engagement ring to put the money into the travel fund.

However, this time Theo won’t take no for an answer. I relent. It’s not like we are talking diamonds and gold — this is silver and inexpensive gemstones.

A dozen cases of Soni’s beautiful silver rings sit before us. Theo picks out several for me to try on. Some rings are too big or too small. I politely, firmly decline some that are not practical for our budget travel adventure in early retirement.

Several strike outs later, I suggest we get a ring for Theo instead. He pouts, tries on a few… and then shifts back to the hunt, and insists he will gift me a ring. He keeps searching the cases despite my protests. Soni looks amused. 

Theo picks out another ring he says he really likes. It is pretty. A thin silver band with a labradorite gemstone in a tear-shaped setting. He gives it to me to try on. It fits. Theo and Soni agree on a price. It is inexpensive. I resign to accept the gift, despite the band’s dainty design. 

I give a few ring trays back to Soni. On one tray, by chance, I pause to look more closely at his gorgeous jewelry art and to compliment his collection. 


Then Theo sees a ring on the tray I hold and he makes the smallest gasp. Almost a squeak. I think we saw this one ring in the same second. He leans forward. “That one— try that one,” he says. I know which one.

I try it on. The spouse seems sold without knowing the price. It is a sturdy silver design with an inexpensive amethyst gemstone. The jeweler names his price and Theo hardly haggles. Its final price in rupees works out to around $19. 

three view of the ring from rajasthan

Something about this ring from Rajasthan speaks to me. I ask Soni how he got it.

He says it’s an old silver ring once worn by a Hindu Indian woman of the warrior caste. Each caste has its own style of jewelry, and the silver design on this ring is of that caste. He remembers when he acquired it from the family who wanted to sell it. 

That’s all he shared. It was enough.

I tell the acclaimed jeweler his ring is especially fitting— because I am a breast cancer ‘warrior’. The stoic man smiles. A fateful match, we muse. 

Ellen wears the ring Theo bought at the Rajasthani jeweler's home in Jaisalmer.

Later, I looked up amethyst gemstones because I knew nothing about them. How ironic: ancient Egyptians used them for protection while traveling. Additionally, amethyst is alleged to protect against drunkenness. I’ve been sober 12.5 years and don’t want to drink.

Still, talismans can’t hurt in this crazy Universe where cars hit me and where my ego is constantly challenged as an average middle-aged American woman without breasts who gives money away to people who desperately need it instead of buying a new (used) iPhone.

What a trip. What a gift!

And so, I have added one unique ‘thing’ to my short list earthly possessions – a beautiful ring. A love gift that I’m honored to wear as we carry on indefinitely.

Theo and Ellen in Jaisalmer, smiling.

Thanks for reading, “The ring from Rajasthan.”

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