Artifacts of Life: Colleen Thompson's Ring of Bone and Blood

The Chicago Tribune calls Dawn Raffel’s The Secret Life of Objects "a personal catalog of mementos, talismans and heirlooms, all made meaningful by the passing of time." This month, inspired by Raffel's stunning memoir, we’re inviting writers and readers to share thoughts and memories about artifacts large and small that connect them to important people, places and moments.

From bestselling author Colleen Thompson:

I keep it in a place of honor, behind the polished glass of a display frame. But the ring in question isn't made of precious metals. It's not set with a stone. Instead, it's carved from an old meat bone, a simple bit of folk art lost for decades inside a moldering cardboard box stored in my parents' basement.

When I found it there, with the precious note explaining its origin, my father's eyes welled. Fighting a potentially deadly cancer at the time, he had forgotten all about the ring's existence, forgotten all about the day his beloved, long-dead grandmother entrusted it to him.

She was the one who wrote down the bone ring's history, in pencil on the back of a thin piece of cardboard to which she had affixed the item with a few deft stitches. Along with my few, fond memories of "Great Grammy," her words had faded with the years, so badly that my sister-in-law and I had to take it into the sunlight and tilt the cardboard to decode the slight indentations she had made while writing.

The words, which I transcribed, begin:
This ring was carved from a meat bone by Charles W. Converse while in the Civil War. His parents [were] Henry Converse, born 1816, [and] Martha Worthington Converse, 1820. Charles died in the Civil War in 1863 of typhoid fever, leaving his parents and wife, Rebecca Glidewell Converse, and one son, Alonzo, Converse… 
When I examined the ring carefully, I could see the top face, if it were worn, was flattened, creating a center panel with two flattened wings on either side. Into each of these three planed segments, my much-removed cousin (a "double-cousin" of my great-grandmother) had carved one of his initials before inlaying the now worn surface with some dark red substance—much of it flaked off by this time—that I'm hoping isn't blood.

Whether or not it is, the ring serves as a reminder of the blood ties that link me to both the living and the dead, from my father, who survived his illness and gifted me with the ring, to that lonely young farmer, far from his loved ones for perhaps the first time, who had passed the time until his ran out, by carving a discarded meat bone as he daydreamed of his home and family.

Colleen Thompson is setting Kindle on fire with her historical romances written as Gwyneth Atlee. Her latest novel, Dangerous Attractions, has been called "steamy, enticing, a seductive story." Visit Colleen online at

Win a copy of Dawn Raffel’s The Secret Life of Objects! Share your story. We'll publish the best ten entries on our blog, and Jaded Ibis will send you the book. Click here for details.