Jane Pitts knows exactly how she'd answer the question "If your house were on fire and you could save one thing, what would it be?"
She would save her engagement ring.
The one her grandmother wore.
The one her grandmother's mother wore.
The one her father knew she wanted and had surprised her now-husband, Andy Pitts, with when Andy asked for Jane's hand in marriage eight years ago.
The one that is now missing.
"I admired this ring since I was a little girl," an emotionally exhausted-sounding Jane Pitts told me Monday. "It's stunning. Stunning. You've never seen anything like it."
Pitts, who lives in Bluffton, only wore the 80-year-old platinum and European-cut eight-diamond ring on special occasions and when she wanted to dress up for a night out.
Typically, she kept the heirloom hidden -- safe, she thought -- in the pocket of a jacket that, after a significant weight loss, is now too big for her. The ring was further tucked inside a blue felt Tiffany pouch that she got with an Elsa Peretti monogrammed necklace a friend gave her.
The jacket, cream-colored and cropped with three-quarter length sleeves and gold-thread detailing, hung in her closet with the rest of her clothes. When she wanted to wear the ring, she would retrieve it from the jacket's pocket and then stow it there again when she took it off.
Which is why she feels so sick about what happened ... which is why she can hardly believe it happened in the first place.
I heard about Pitts' misfortune through a post on Calhoun Station's Facebook page. A woman whose clothes had been donated to the thrift store was searching for a ring that had been left in the pocket of a jacket.
I recognized it as my worst nightmare.
That is exactly what I used to do with my engagement ring -- an art deco number handed down from my great-aunt. I kept it in the pocket of some pants I never wore because they made me feel like Lisa Bonet from "The Cosby Show." (Coincidentally I also kept the ring in a blue felt Tiffany pouch that I got with an Elsa Peretti necklace that was a gift. And P.S., you can't steal the ring from me because I gave it to my sister, so put down your burglary handbook and tools. The pants are still there if you'd like those, though.)
All my other jewelry, which is to say cheap earrings and necklaces from Banana Republic and the Saks outlet, is kept where you'd expect jewelry to be stored. The pants made sense to me because no one would ever think to look there. They were the perfect secret jewelry box for someone who isn't the Queen of England and has no need for a closet safe. Occasionally I'd feel the pocket in a panic to make sure everything was secure. Otherwise, the system was copasetic.
This is all to say I understand Pitts' horror completely.
When Pitts went to get the ring to wear to a dinner on Memorial Day, she realized that she had given the jacket away a few months ago during a massive sweep of her closet.
"I screamed 100 times. I was screaming 'The jacket's gone. The jacket's gone.' Oh gosh ..." she paused while remembering that moment. Her husband came running.
"I got rid of it. ... I have no idea what I was thinking," she said. "It's disgusting."
Thrift stores sometimes find unintentionally donated valuables in old clothes, said Calhoun Station board president Brynne Bowler. In fact, two years ago a regular customer at the Bluffton thrift shop found $400 in cash in the pocket of some clothes she had purchased. The customer returned the money, something that Pitts is, no doubt, hoping happens in her case.
After Pitts discovered her mistake, she had to wait two days for the store to reopen. She went there Wednesday morning and cried as she went through the racks at the store, hoping to find her jacket with the ring in the pocket.
Bowler said she hopes the jacket -- and the ring -- turn up.
"I feel really horrible about it," Bowler said, adding that the all-volunteer-run store tries to check the pockets of all donated items before they price them and put them out for sale.
Pitts said she's been calling upon the patron saint of lost items -- Catholics will be familiar with this tactic.
"I've said more prayers to St. Anthony," she told me, asking me to do the same on her behalf. "I'm a mess. I've been severely depressed about it."
Pitts has been so upset about the ring, in fact, that she finds it hard to talk about. She tried to file a police report but found that reports don't get filed for lost items, only valuables that have been stolen. So she decided to offer $1,000 reward for it in hopes that the person who might have bought the jacket or found the ring will return it to her.
"My father always said to only wear it on special occasions," she said.
She can't bring herself to tell him.
"No, no. Absolutely never. No way. No how. I went on Facebook and restricted my family and cousins. My father would hemorrhage. It would be ....," she trailed off.
"The ring means a lot to my family."
Follow columnist and senior editor Liz Farrell at twitter.com/elizfarrell and facebook.com/elizfarrell.
Jane and Andy Pitts are offering a $1,000 reward for the return of Jane's engagement ring, a family heirloom that is more than 80 years old. The ring is in a small blue felt Tiffany pouch and has a total of eight single-cut diamonds. The center diamond is a European cut set in a four-prong platinum fishtail setting. It was in the pocket of a cream-colored cropped jacket in a lady's size Large with three-quarter-length sleeves and gold thread detailing. Contact Jane Pitts at 843-290-2156.