A cancer diagnosis is a daunting prospect for anyone, but it is especially difficult to consider as the parent of young children. That’s the situation Carrie Gurley faced in March of 2022 when the mother of three was diagnosed with breast cancer. “It was like a double whammy, getting the news and then turning to see my children,” she explains. “I was used to being the strong one who holds the family together, but during my treatment, they were the light at the end of the tunnel who kept me going.”
Carrie was ready to fight. After four rounds of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation treatment and a double mastectomy, she went into remission earlier this year. Her husband, Drew, wanted to give his wife something that would stand as a symbol of her strength and their family’s love. In order to ensure he could provide her something truly exceptional, he worked with The Diamond Bar in Town and Country to create a one-of-kind piece.
Not long after Carrie’s diagnosis, Drew approached Chris Phillips, owner of The Diamond Bar, to design a ring that could reflect her journey battling cancer. Phillips has almost two decades of experience creating custom jewelry. “I was honored to have the opportunity to create a piece that would have so much meaning,” he notes. “Drew brought in a pink spinel that had belonged to his mother to use as the center, and the plan was to add a diamond for every day from her diagnosis until her final surgery. From start to finish, the process of creating the ring took around eight months because we had to wait for the surgery to be scheduled.”
Along with 304 diamonds, the ring features 12 pink spinels as a reflection of the year of treatment Carrie underwent, as well as an extra on each side to represent her and Drew. “Chris was extremely patient and made the process a collaborative one,” Drew notes. “He listened to my thoughts about the design elements and brought his own ideas as an expert. It meant a lot to be able to create something that Carrie would love.”
To make the ring even more special, Drew had the idea of getting the white gold that would be used in the design blessed by the Pope. He worked with John Ruhlin of Giftology to connect with Matthew Kelly who was able to get the gold sent overseas to the Vatican for a blessing. “It really was a team effort to create the ring, and thanks to the flexibility of The Diamond Bar, we were able to get it done,” Drew notes. “Chris was willing to work around the timeline and other elements to create an amazing final product.”
When it came time to give the ring to Carrie, Drew worked with Ruhlin to create a special oak box. Along with holding the ring, it also played a video Drew recorded and contained cards with comments of support Carrie has received online printed on them. “The box was full of cards,” he notes. “It really showed what a journey we had been on and how this ring was a part of it. The gift was a way to mark the milestones that were being met and all Carrie has accomplished.”
On a Wednesday evening in February, while Carrie was getting ready for a night out with friends, Drew presented her the box. “I was not expecting anything, and it was a very emotional moment,” she recalls. “Drew and our oldest daughter put so much thought into designing the ring with Chris. When I look down at it, I’m not reminded of a sad time. It represents everything I have overcome. When I was diagnosed, I was terrified not knowing what the future held. Now, I have something that signifies what I went through and how hard I fought.”
For Phillips, clients like the Gurleys are the reason he’s passionate about the jewelry business. “Jewelry isn’t a simple purchase—it’s sentimental,” he notes. “It’s often associated with big life events, so you want a piece that will always be your own, one that no one else will have. For Drew and Carrie, this ring represents so much. It’s something that they will have for the rest of their lives and pass down to their children. I’m so thankful that by creating custom pieces The Diamond Bar gets to be a part of people’s stories.”
Located in Town and Country at 13360 Clayton Road, The Diamond Bar offers a one-of-a-kind shopping experience, including custom jewelry design. Pictured on the cover: Jessica Troeckler, Chris Phillips, Carrie and Drew Gurley. For more information, call 314.548.5100 or visit thediamondbarstl.com.
Cover design by Julie Streiler
Cover photo courtesy of The Diamond Bar
Pictured at top: Drew and Carrie Gurley with their children Gretchen, Gordon and Claire; a custom ring created for Carrie Gurley
Photos courtesy of The Diamond Bar