The Mystery Surrounding Marilyn Monroe’s Eternity Wedding Band

Nearly 60 years after her death, we’re still fascinated by Marilyn Monroe and the legend she left behind. From her glamourous persona to her intense love life, we can’t seem to get enough of the talented but troubled blonde beauty. Now, there’s a mystery about an odd detail on Monroe’s wedding band that some observant fans noticed when the ring was auctioned off.

We’ll learn about the mystery soon, but first, let’s take a closer look at the relationship between the actress and her second husband, Joe DiMaggio.

An Unexpectedly Unpretentious Wedding

Joe-Marilyn
Frank Povolny/Twentieth Century Fox/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images & Bettmann / Contributor
Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Perhaps the most recognizable star of her time, Marilyn Monroe’s troubled personal life was intensely scrutinized by the public. So when the actress married a famous New York Yankees player Joe DiMaggio, you might expect that they’d have a lavish, star-studded wedding fit for royalty.

But that wasn’t the case; the celebrity pair tied the knot at San Francisco’s City Hall in a modest ceremony. In fact, there wasn’t even an engagement ring since Monroe and DiMaggio only decided to get married two days earlier.

DiMaggio Gave Her A Memorable Wedding Ring

The American actress Marilyn Monroe and her husband Joe DiMaggio leaving the town hall after their wedding. San Francisco, 14th January 1954
Mondadori via Getty Images
Mondadori via Getty Images

Despite the low-key nature of their wedding, two giant stars like Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio couldn’t count on keeping things private. Allegedly, Monroe leaked details of her upcoming nuptials to someone at the film studio.

The news wasn’t kept a secret. When she and DiMaggio arrived at the San Francisco City Hall on January 14, 1954, the place was swarming with 100 reporters and onlookers. As a result, there are quite a few pictures of the lovebirds, including several that show the glittering wedding band the new bride was wearing.

Three-Minute Ceremony

Marilyn Monroe Kissing Joe DiMaggio
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

For their simple wedding ceremony, the glamourous Monroe chose to wear an understated dark chocolate brown suit trimmed with a white fur collar. DiMaggio was dressed in a dark blue suit with the exact tie he had worn on their first date.

During the three-minute courtroom ceremony, DiMaggio placed a wedding ring on Monroe’s fourth finger. The judge pronounced them husband and wife, and both beamed as they exited the courthouse.

An Eternity Band For A Short-Lived Marriage

ring-side-by-side
Bettmann / Contributor & Rick Maiman/Sygma via Getty Images
Rick Maiman/Sygma via Getty Images

Of course, fans and jewelry lovers alike paid close attention to the pictures of Mrs. Monroe’s new wedding band. It was certainly hard to miss in photos. The sparkling baguette-cut diamond eternity band was exactly what you’d expect a reigning queen of Hollywood to wear.

All of the focus on the ring was what led some people to come up with some pretty wild theories when the piece of jewelry was sold years later. It turned out that the auctioned ring was missing a feature that the original had.

The Marilyn Monroe Collection

Marilyn Monroe's platinum eternity band is display
HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP via Getty Images
HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP via Getty Images

One of the world’s leading experts on all things Marilyn, a website called The Marilyn Monroe Collection was the one to bring attention to the ring discrepancy. As the world’s most extensive privately-held collection of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia, the site is an online record of her life, clothing, and other artifacts.

The archive doesn’t actually own the wedding ring in question, but they are quite familiar with the details surrounding it and were curious when they saw the band presented in the 1999 auction.

Born Norma Jeane, She Married At 16

Marilyn Monroe with James Dougherty
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images
Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Although rumors about her many romances are still rampant to this day, there are parts of Marilyn Monroe’s life that are known facts. She was born Norma Jeane Mortenson and got married when she was just 16 years old.

Her first husband was a neighbor named Jim Dougherty. But the two were so young and had such different life paths ahead of them that their marriage was destined not to work out. Even so, Dougherty later recalled their four years together with fondness.

A Modeling Contract Came Along

Marilyn Monroe Portrait Session
Richard C. Miller/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images
Richard C. Miller/Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

She’d dropped out of school when she got married to Jim Dougherty. But she wasn’t going to remain a housewife for very long. While her husband was shipped overseas with the Merchant Marines, Monroe met a photographer named David Conover. She quit a factory job to model for him, and the rest is history. She signed her first modeling contract in 1945.

By 1946, she had appeared on 33 magazine covers, and she and Daugherty were divorced the following year. He didn’t approve of this new career.

A Series Of Romantic Affairs

Marlon Brando And Marilyn Monroe
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

As her star rose in Hollywood and she became more famous, Monroe’s romantic life grew more complicated. She nabbed a contract with 20th Century Fox and began appearing in increasingly high-profile film roles.

She was rumored to have been involved with a string of industry men including Charlie Chaplin, Jr. and Marlon Brando. But her most famous alleged dalliance was with someone even more powerful than any Hollywood actor.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Marilyn Monroe Singing
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

Marilyn Monroe was said to have had a torrid affair with none other than the then-president of the United States, John F. Kennedy. She famously sang him a sultry rendition of “Happy Birthday” in 1962 (pictured here).

And Kennedy wasn’t the only politician in Monroe’s romantic history. She also allegedly had an affair with the president’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Several Monroe biographers have claimed that the starlet was indeed involved with both the brothers.

Monroe And The Playwright

Arthur Miller And Marilyn Monroe
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

A few years before the rumored Kennedy affairs, Monroe was introduced to playwright Arthur Miller. This eventually developed into a romantic relationship, one that was not kept hidden from the public the way many of her associations were.

Marilyn Monroe married Miller on June 29, 1956. Although the actress publicly stated that she was madly in love with her new husband, some members of the public didn’t see the two as a good match. Variety described their nuptials as “Egghead Weds Hourglass.” This marriage didn’t last, either.

“This Is The First Time I’ve Been Really In Love”

Marilyn Monroe
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images
ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Before their eventual split, Marilyn Monroe declared to the press that her marriage to Miller was “the first time I’ve been really in love.” One person who might not have been thrilled to hear her speak this way was a certain baseball player named Joe DiMaggio.

You see, at this point, her marriage to DiMaggio was over. The two stars who were so happily wed in 1954 were already a thing of the past.

The Meeting Of Two Major Stars

Marilyn and Joe DiMaggio
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

After her marriage to Jim Dougherty and before the one to Arthur Miller came Monroe’s second marriage. She and Joe DiMaggio met in 1952 when he had just retired from his legendary career as a New York Yankee. He asked a friend to set him up on a dinner date with the actress.

At the time, Monroe was a rising star and was quickly becoming one of the most bankable names in the business. They were both extremely successful in their respective fields and although some considered them to be a match made in heaven for that reason, others had their doubts about an actress and an athlete getting together.

Not What She Expected

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio in Tokyo
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

Monroe was surprised during her first meeting with DiMaggio at dinner that evening. In a press conference, she confessed, “I expected a flashy New York sports type, and instead I met this reserved guy who didn’t make a pass at me right away. He treated me like something special.”

After that first date, the two decided to continue seeing each other. They made the new relationship work despite living on opposite sides of the country. The public was intrigued by this juicy and unexpected celebrity pairing.

Serious Chemistry

Picture dated of the fifties showing American actr
AFP/AFP via Getty Images
AFP/AFP via Getty Images

It will probably come as no surprise that Monroe and DiMaggio had some intense physical chemistry together. Joe DiMaggio’s podiatrist published a book, called Dinner With DiMaggio, about the baseball legend and it included some juicy details about his relationship with Monroe.

“When we got together in the bedroom it was like the gods were fighting; there were thunderclouds and lightning,” he allegedly confessed to his doctor about the great physical connection they shared.

More In Common Than First Thought

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

It wasn’t all about physical attraction with the lovebirds, however. They had much more in common than some people might have expected. Their life goals were similar, as Monroe revealed in her memoir, My Story.

“The truth is that we were very much alike,” she confided. “My publicity, like Joe’s greatness, is something on the outside. It has nothing to do with what we actually are.” They both wanted a fulfilling home life including having children together.

A Traditional Wedding Was Out Of The Question

Marilyn Monroe Marries Joe DiMaggio
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

Despite DiMaggio and Monroe’s desire to get married, a traditional wedding in a church was not possible due to their circumstances. They were both divorced, Monroe from Dougherty and DiMaggio from his marriage to a woman named Dorothy Arnold.

With a church wedding off the table, a new plan hatched. DiMaggio proposed that they tie the knot in a quickie ceremony in San Francisco, where his family lived. This idea worked out with Monroe’s filming schedule, too.

Only A Two-Day Engagement

Marilyn with Joe Dimaggio
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe preferred to keep their relationship as private as possible, but of course, this was easier said than done at the height of fame.

When he proposed they get married, it was spontaneous and he had no engagement ring. They were wed at City Hall just two days later in what was supposed to be a secret civil ceremony with six guests. As we saw earlier, their plans for privacy did not pan out and there was a mob of people gathered to watch them exit the municipal building as man and wife.

The Wedding Band

Happy Marilyn
Evening Standard/Getty Images
Evening Standard/Getty Images

Not having an engagement (or a big wedding) meant that Monroe and DiMaggio missed out on a lot of the things people typically celebrate for a marriage. This included an engagement ring, which is an important piece of jewelry to many people.

He made up for it with her wedding ring, however. Monroe’s platinum band was set with 36 dazzling baguette-cut diamonds. The eternity band was meant to symbolize the long and happy life they’d live together.

Up For Auction

Christie's auction house employees take phone bids
DOUG KANTER/AFP via Getty Images
DOUG KANTER/AFP via Getty Images

Alas, this marriage did not work out. And in 1999, 45 years after they exchanged their vows at City Hall in San Francisco, their ring came up for sale at a Christie’s auction called “The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe.”

Pictured here, the collection featured many items from Monroe’s estate, including the dress Marilyn Monroe wore to sing Happy Birthday to President Kennedy. As expected, the wedding band drew intense public interest.

An Imperfect Relic

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Bettmann / Contributor & DOUG KANTER/AFP via Getty Images
Bettmann / Contributor & DOUG KANTER/AFP via Getty Images

The ring, a symbol of a marriage that was doomed not to last, was listed as having a value of $50,000. This was despite the fact that it only had 35 of its baguette-cut diamonds, with the 36th gem lost to the ages. Because of the ring’s rich and significant history, it wound up bringing in an astonishing $772,500 when the auction closed.

The sale brought significant public attention, and photos of the ring quickly caught the eye of some of Monroe’s biggest fans. The ring that had sold for $772,500 did not appear to be the same one in photos from the wedding day.

Not A Match

band
Evening Standard/Getty Images & Rick Maiman/Sygma via Getty Images
Evening Standard/Getty Images & Rick Maiman/Sygma via Getty Images

A comparison of the newly-auctioned wedding band and the one Marilyn was given by DiMaggio in 1954 didn’t seem to show a match! Most people wouldn’t know the difference, but some of Monroe’s fans were quite familiar with her wedding band and they were sure this wasn’t the same ring.

The band from the wedding photos looks antique and features a group of diamonds set at the top of the ring. The Christie’s ring was missing those small diamonds and was set with 36 baguette-cut stones set side-by-side around the band.

Something Borrowed?

Marilyn Monroe Smiling for Photographers
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

One prominent theory about the two different rings came from the people behind The Marilyn Monroe Collection. They proposed that the ring DiMaggio gave to Monroe on their wedding day was borrowed from one of his family members for the occasion.

After all, it has the look of an old family heirloom. And since the wedding was so quickly organized, this would make sense. Perhaps it was just a placeholder ring used by the couple until their own version was purchased.

She Continued Wearing The Antique-Looking Ring

ring-marilyn
The Marilyn Monroe Collection
The Marilyn Monroe Collection

If the theory about the wedding ring being borrowed from a family member was true, then why did Monroe continue to wear it for so long after their nuptials? It was captured on her ring finger in multiple photos and films well after the wedding.

But this is clearly not the ring that was auctioned by Christie’s, meaning that DiMaggio did purchase another diamond eternity band for his wife at some point.

It Could Have Been Returned To The DiMaggio Family

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio in Tokyo
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

The experts at The Marilyn Monroe Collection believe that if the ring was borrowed, for however long, it would likely have been returned to the DiMaggio family when they were done with it. That would explain why the band has never been seen again or put up for auction anywhere.

Clearly, if this ring ever turns up for sale somewhere it’s likely to rake in some major money. It’s now such a mysterious part of Monroe’s legendary life.

Monroe And DiMaggio’s Marriage Didn’t Last Long

Marilyn_Monroe_Joe_DiMaggio_January_1954
By Copyright not renewed – eBaycover, Public Domain
By Copyright not renewed – eBaycover, Public Domain

Although he gave her an eternity band when they exchanged their wedding vows, the marriage between Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio lasted only months. The simplest explanation is that he wanted his bride to stay at home in the role of a traditional wife.

Monroe was not ready to give up her film career in exchange for the life of a housewife, and this was a constant source of friction in their marriage.

The Seven Year Itch Rubbed DiMaggio The Wrong Way

Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

The 1955 romantic comedy The Seven Year Itch ended up being the final straw for DiMaggio, who wanted his wife to be home more. In a scene that most people recognize this day, Monroe stands over a subway grate wearing a white halter-top dress.

A train rushes by and creates a gust of air that blows her skirt up around her as Monroe playfully speaks with her co-star Tom Ewell. DiMaggio was infuriated by the scene, and the two split up just nine months after getting married.

Despite The Divorce, They Had A Long-Lasting Connection

Marilyn Monroe Leaving Home
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

Despite the fact that their marriage ending so quickly, Monroe and DiMaggio maintained a close relationship for years to come. After she publicly announced the news of their divorce, he wrote to her, “I love you and want to be with you… There is nothing I would like better than to restore your confidence in me.”

DiMaggio added, “My heart split even wider seeing you cry in front of all those people” during the press conference.

Her Protector

DiMaggio and Monroe Lounging on Beach in Florida
Bettmann / Contributor
Bettmann / Contributor

Marilyn Monroe then went on to her ill-fated third marriage to the playwright and author Arthur Miller. Their time together was tumultuous and her personal and professional problems had become overwhelming.

When their union ended, she was left so emotionally fraught that she went to a mental health treatment center in New York. Joe DiMaggio was the one who came and looked out for her. He had her released from the hospital On February 10, 1961, and she went to Florida with him to recuperate.

A Tragic Ending

Monroe's Funeral
Keystone/Getty Images
Bettmann / Contributor

Marilyn Monroe’s personal struggles are commonly known. She suffered from a variety of mental conditions and addictions that even Joe DiMaggio couldn’t rescue her from. On August 5, 1962, she was found dead in her Los Angeles home. She was only 36.

DiMaggio was the one to claim her body and arrange for her funeral, even selecting the dress she wore. According to The New York Times, while at her funeral, DiMaggio leaned down over Monroe’s coffin and whispered, “I love you. I love you” to his former wife.

A Remarriage Might Have Been In The Works

marilyn-letters
STF/AFP via Getty Images & John Lamparski/WireImage
John Lamparski/WireImage

According to sources close to Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe, the couple had been considering marrying each other all over again despite the fact that they told people publicly they were “just friends.”

A half-written note found after Monroe’s death seems to confirm the rumor. “Dear Joe, If I can only succeed in making you happy, I will have succeeded in the biggest and most difficult thing there is – that is, to make one person completely happy. Your happiness means my happiness, and…”

Roses For Marilyn

Marilyn Monroe Grave
Paul Harris/Getty Images
Mel Bouzad/Getty Images

After Marilyn Monroe’s death, Joe DiMaggio never spoke publicly about their relationship again and he never remarried. Three times a day, for 20 years, he had a half-dozen red roses delivered to the cemetery where she lies in rest.

According to a reporter who spoke with a groundskeeper there, he had ordered them on the day of her funeral. “‘[DiMaggio] said, “I wanted red roses for Marilyn forever.’ “

An Eternal Symbol

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe arrive back in San Francisco on January 24, 1954.
Joe Rosenthal/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
Joe Rosenthal/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

Many people believe that Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were meant to be together forever. The eternity ring that he gave her on their wedding day symbolized their ongoing love that was apparent even after her death.

Wherever that precious ring might be today, it still carries the love and affection that they shared together during the good days. Perhaps it will turn up someday and the world will learn where it’s been all these years.