The following was written entirely by Bill Roche, a long time client of Ballard & Ballard Jewelers.
The Mother and Child Reunion
More than twenty two years ago, Glenn Ballard was presented with a challenge. Bill had decided to finally propose to his college sweetheart, Elizabeth. After a frustrating and disappointing trek through the local retail mall jewelry chains and the Long Beach and Los Angeles jewelry marts, Bill was about to embark on an adventure into the world of custom jewelry design with a personal jeweler’s touch. As he stepped into the foyer of what was then the Ballard & Sons Jewelers shop on Euclid Avenue in Fountain Valley, Bill knew he was in for a totally different jewelry experience. And when he told Glenn what he was looking for, Glenn had exactly the same thought!
Years before, Bill and Elizabeth had both been captivated by the vibrant colors and character of boulder opals and Bill was determined to include them in the engagement ring. As we all know, diamonds are extremely strong and, as a result, extremely durable. Opals are, well, not so much. Of all the semi-precious gems, opals are one of the most fragile. And although a true boulder opal (one which is still backed by the natural rock in which the opal was formed) is much stronger than regular opal, the prospect of designing a piece of jewelry that included these stones, but needed to last a lifetime AND survive the rigors of daily wear was a daunting one, even for the wizards at Ballard & Sons. But as with any true artist or craftsman, Glenn’s creative juices began to flow and a lifetime relationship was born.
As Glenn patiently re-educated Bill about the four C’s of diamonds and the risks of putting opal into the engagement ring, Bill felt his confidence, comfort, and trust begin to grow. Glenn sketched some ideas; they looked through catalogs of possible settings; they looked at loose diamonds and Bill selected the perfect stone for his fiancée-to-be. At some point it clicked and Bill and Glenn both knew that this was going to be a spectacular one-of-a-kind piece. But first, we had to find the opals…In the meantime, Bill began to ask his sweetheart what kind of engagement ring she MIGHT like, IF he were to think about asking her to marry him sometime in the future. “Round or shaped diamond?” (Bill had selected a stunning pear shape.) “Round.” “Just diamonds? Or some other colored stones?” “Nope. Just diamonds.” Bill began to wonder if he knew Elizabeth at all….
A few months later, the ring was done and it was AMAZING! Glenn had worked his magic in metal and stone and the result was gorgeous. Bill took it home and put it away. He had a particular moment in mind and it was several agonizing weeks away. Finally, the big moment arrived and, with Elizabeth’s brother and sister-in-law looking on, Bill asked her father for her hand. Rendered speechless by the proposal, Elizabeth’s father was rescued by her mother who happily gave their permission. “Is anyone going to ask ME?” Elizabeth asked. Bill turned to her, went down on one knee and asked, “Elizabeth, will you marry me?” as he presented the ring. Her answer was a resounding, “Yes!” When Bill suggested that it could be changed to something more in line with what she said she wanted, Elizabeth said it would never leave her finger. Ever since, the ring has prompted countless compliments, oooohs, and aaaahs from women and men, alike. The ring is a continuous source of pride and joy for both Elizabeth and Bill and its story has been oft-recounted among family, friends, and even total strangers.
Back at the shop, ‘knowing’ that the opals would never last more than a few years, Glenn put the rest of the boulder opal away for the day he was sure would come when one or both would need to be replaced….
Fast forward twenty years. The original opals are still intact in their original setting, much to everyone’s surprise and pleasure. Bill is back at Ballard & Ballard, his go-to team for all things sparkly for his one-of-a-kind bride. Their 20 year anniversary is quickly approaching and Bill is looking for a pair of opal and diamond earrings to complement the legendary engagement ring. When Bill returns to pick up yet another perfect Ballard piece, Glenn slips into the back of the shop, only to return a few moments later with the original opal ‘mother stone’ in hand. “Maybe we should start thinking about something to do with this,” he says. And thus, the seed was sown.
A few months later, Bill and Glenn begin to exchange emails, trying different ideas on each other. Glenn provides some digital computer-generated design ideas. Bill counters with some crudely-drawn ideas of his own. As always, the collaboration produces a design everyone is excited about and Glenn sets to work, back in that place where wizards work their magic.
The result is yet another beautiful and unique piece, even within Elizabeth’s collection of one-of-a-kind Ballard designs. For the first time, boulder opal is combined with Bill and Elizabeth’s birthstones in a pendant that represents their union and the role played by boulder opal throughout their marriage. The ‘mother stone’ was shaped like a rounded-off triangle and Glenn had cut a piece out of one corner from which he had then cut the two oval opals for Elizabeth’s engagement ring all those years ago. As a result, the mother stone now looks somewhat heart-shaped, a happy coincidence for jewelry that is all about love. Glenn and Bill decided to fill the void in the mother stone with sapphire and amethyst (Bill and Elizabeth’s birthstones), symbolically bringing them and the mother stone full-circle, back to where it all began.
When Bill presented Elizabeth with this latest ‘Ballard’ on their 21st anniversary, she melted into tears. She did not recall ever knowing that the mother stone still existed and was overwhelmed by the symbolism the pendant represented. When Bill and ELizabeth recount this story to family and friends, the most common question is, “What kind of a jeweler would hang on to a little stone like that for over two decades?!”
Our answer is always the same: “Only one that we know of – Ballard and Ballard. Which is why they are, and always will be, our jewelers for life.”