DEAR MISS MANNERS: I own a small family jewelry store. On occasion, a young lady will come in with an heirloom engagement ring that her fiance has given her.

While my husband and I absolutely adore the young ladies who gush about the sentiment of receiving Grandma’s ring, we have a difficult time handling those who roll their eyes at the pathetic diamond and outdated setting, lamenting about how horrible the ring is — complete with their betrothed in tow, brought in to see exactly what sort of setting and diamond this particular princess expects as a token of their engagement.

Many times, we will suggest that since the ring is not something they will get joy out of wearing, that perhaps we can melt down the setting and use Grandma’s diamonds to make a stunning little pendant to keep the sentiment alive.

Often we are met with: “Oh. Well, these diamonds are horrible. I just want to get rid of them and get something I want.” My instinct is to tell the poor young gentlemen to run, as I feel this entitled attitude is merely a sign of the wretchedness to come.

I know my place is merely to help this couple get what the young lady wants. But I find this very difficult, as I see it as a lack of respect toward her betrothed and a rejection of his family history.

I suspect that Miss Manners might support me in my thinking, and I am not looking for any sort of permission to respond in such a way that would be rude. But how might I sway these young women toward rethinking getting rid of Grandma’s ring?

GENTLE READER: Your instinct sounds like the more humane course, but Miss Manners understands that you cannot voice that. She would be tempted to exclaim, “Oh, you can’t mean that! This is a lovely treasure from a family you are about to join.”

Well, maybe not. But as a jeweler, you could point out that styles change, and old ones that are scorned often come back into vogue; that once destroyed, something with such family sentiment cannot be replaced; and that the ring could be put aside for the daughter they might have. And if that means getting an engagement ring that is less expensive than the lady has suggested — well, since sentiment is not a factor, they could trade up when they can afford it.

Whatever her response, you will have done your best to illuminate her attitude for her betrothed.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My lovely gentleman friend from the South tells me that he was raised to know the only two occasions where a man precedes a woman. For the life of me, I do not recall this little rule. Could you help me answer this one?

GENTLE READER: He probably means when threading through a crowd (to protect the lady) and going down stairs, including disembarking from a vehicle (to give her something soft to fall on if she misses a step).

Miss Manners also recalls a rule that a gentleman takes the lead in initiating a divorce if his wife wants one, painting himself as the guilty one even though everyone knows he has been an angel while she has been carrying on with their son’s tutor. Apparently, this custom has disappeared.

Visit Miss Manners at her Web site,, where you can send her your questions.

2012, by Judith Martin

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