Preserving WWII History in a Bespoke Wedding Ring
This is certainly a piece of jewellery that has many stories to tell. Starting off its life as a token of safe travel and protection for a pilot in WWII, to becoming a family heirloom that is now continuing its story as a wedding ring for the next generation of family pilot; Cade.
Words by Cade Tariau
I am very lucky to be able to have had a family heirloom worked into my wedding ring. The Saint Christopher Medal used was originally given to my grandfather (referred to as GrandBill) by his mother when he went away to serve in the Second World War as a pilot, in the hope that it would bring him safely home again.
Thankfully, the medal did its job.
A while after he returned home, the chain he kept the medal on broke and the medal was lost. GrandBill searched high and low for this treasure, but could not find it. It only resurfaced when Nana was packing up their flat to move into their first home, built with Grandbill's wartime rehab loan. Once again the medal had found its way back! Nana then surprised Grandbill with it, neatly polished and gift-wrapped. He kept it on his key ring which apparently never left him so that he wouldn’t risk losing it again.
The first image is of my Grandfather, William Mathieson on the docks in Wellington on the day he left to go to war. The second is myself and my father John posing for a pic in front of one of our planes after he came along for a joyride one day. Unfortunately, GrandBill passed before I was born so there aren’t any photos of us together, but by all accounts, we are kindred spirits in our mannerisms and interests. Spooky how these things skip generations!
A couple of generations on, I too have caught the aviation bug, and have also been lucky enough to find someone I want to be with for the rest of my life. There are so many layers of meaning to being able to use this medal as a wedding ring; the gifting of it from my mother to me in the hope that it will keep me safe while in the sky and return me home safe to my family. The regifting of the medal from my soon-to-be wife to me to keep with me always, and the opportunity to help return GrandBill to the skies again and have a little piece of him travel with me.
I am so thankful to the team at The Village Goldsmith for helping bring this idea to life and helping breathe new life into this precious family taonga.
Our master jeweller Ben, cast the setting for the ring from 9ct yellow gold based on a wax model that had been perfectly fitted to the medal. Ben skillfully shaped the ring and very carefully filed the rim of the medal so the two components would fit well together. After completing the final touches on the ring’s setting, Ben patiently set the St Christopher medal with great care by filing the overhanging metal of the ring over the medal’s outer edges and gave it its final polish to bring the ring to life.
The final result is a ring that preserves Cade’s wonderful family memories, while perfectly framing the St. Christopher medal and letting its story live on.
Thank you, Cade, for sharing your beautiful family stories with us and most importantly, for trusting us to remodel this heirloom pendant. We wish you and Sally all the love and happiness!
Watch the video and see how we transformed Cade’s heirloom medal into a bespoke signet ring.