I bought the skull ring for $5 at a kitschy little shop where we’d go to spend $12 on a tiny candle or two. It was “silver” and adjustable, a simple but badass skull that I had to have as soon as I slid it onto my pointer finger, left hand.

And there it stayed for years.

I wore that ring every day of my life without fail for years. I never lost it – I took it off at night and placed it near my bed. I never lost it as my clothes and various possessions fell off after a night of drinking. It never got wedged between the wall and the bed at some boy’s house. My skull ring was a part of me – the skin of my fingers even acclimated to it, adjusting to its shape.

I’ve never been a big jewelry person. On me, it feels inauthentic. My mom wears so much jewelry – bangles and rings and several necklaces, all gold – that I must be reacting to it by going without any. I’ll fall in love with one piece and wear it constantly for a year, then let it go and move on to another. I’ll wear necklaces until they break and never have them repaired, preferring instead to make tangly puddles of their chains in my tiny jewelry box.

But the skull ring was mine. It was me. It paired perfectly with everything I wore. It was edgy but still feminine. I wore it with cocktail dresses from H&M and fur coats that fell apart. I wore it to class. I wore it to dinner. I wore it to parties, to bars, to rock shows, around the house. It was my prized possession, all $5 of it.

I had admired other rings, and taken a few from my mom after much pleading. I visited an onyx David Yurman ring at Nordstrom every few months, plotting and planning how to pay it off if I charged it to my card. It was beautiful, sparkling in a lovely but not ostentatious manner under the perfect department store lighting. But $750 is a lot of money for a 22-year-old girl, so the ring stayed in its glass case. I was happy with my skull.

It broke one night – a very cold night of Minnesota winter. I was out at a dark bar with a handful of friends and my heart got split apart right there at the table. He had told me something terrible, something I knew but didn’t want to hear. He wasn’t in love with me and I knew it, but I didn’t want to know that he’d been plunging his dick into the girl next to me. I could feel my heart shredding inside of me, and after falling apart in an unfamiliar bathroom I continued to fall apart on the stairs and in the car. John drove me around all night until I calmed down, and my abs hurt for days after from all the crying. What a workout, I thought. I bleached my hair white the next day and tried to move on.

The ring shattered that night. The cheap material, weakened by constant wear and the elements, just gave out. I grabbed the skull, still intact, and shoved it away in a box with hopes to repair it, set it in real silver. John took a piece of the band because it broke his heart too to see my ring in pieces. It was a part of our lives.

I didn’t replace the ring for years. I tried on plenty of replacements, and wore a few with relative regularity. But none of them felt right. None of them felt like that skull, or that fancy Yurman I still coveted even five years later. I didn’t mind the way my hand looked with no jewelry on it, and I’d yet to meet a ring that didn’t look silly on my large hands. But I wanted that old feeling of something so precious near me at all times, something I could admire and wear every day and protect.

And so I bought the Yurman. I was an adult now. I had a job, a credit card, a regular paycheck and health insurance. I had it on my hand and it felt like me. I felt like me. You know when something you put on is so perfect that it simply enhances everything around you, from your hair to your clothes to your mood? That’s how this felt, and nothing had felt that way since my skull ring broke. I was in the exact place I needed to be, had finally repaired those broken hearts, and I needed a talisman to remember that. It made a home on my right hand and here it shall stay, the onyx catching the light as I write.

The thing about jewelry is that it has to come to you, and that sometimes the most perfect piece of jewelry is the one you buy for yourself.