Nothing about Marilyn Monroe’s engagement and wedding to Joe DiMaggio fit the extravagant Hollywood mold. The baseball player had proposed without a giant engagement ring: he didn’t have a ring at all. Then, the pair got married in a no-frills ceremony at San Francisco’s City Hall two days later. By that time, though, DiMaggio did have a stunning band to slip on his new bride’s finger – a piece of jewelry with a story behind it.
Well, that is according to the jewelry experts and eagle-eyed fans of the blonde bombshell who have noticed something strange about the ring that DiMaggio gave her that day. It glittered with diamonds – the piece was, indeed, fit for the finger of someone like Monroe. But there was something different about the band, a detail that would likely have gone undetected if not for those paying extra-close attention to her sparkler over the years.
Those behind The Marilyn Monroe Collection count as one such watchdog. They have gathered one of the largest caches of the actress’s personal belongings, ranging from clothes to letters to photographs. The group doesn’t have possession of the ring given to her by DiMaggio, but that didn’t stop them from noticing this one striking detail.
And if they and other observers are right about their theory, then those who reported on Monroe’s wedding ring from DiMaggio have long been mistaken about her famous ring. There are some indisputable facts regarding the ring, of course. It features glittering baguette diamonds, for one thing.
But staring at those sparklers won’t quite unlock the mystery of Monroe’s wedding band. To do so, we have to go back to her wedding day and learn more about her hastily planned nuptials. Only then is it possible to see the strange detail of her band: one that has been wrongly reported for years.
Marilyn Monroe’s life was constantly subjected to gossip and rumors. Unsurprisingly, much of that focus fell on the blonde bombshell’s love life – and tall tales told by men in her life didn’t help. Photographer Sam Shaw, a close buddy of the actress, negated such claims in one succinct statement. He said, “If Marilyn slept with every guy that claims he was with her, she would have never had time to make any movies.”
Before she took on her stage name, Monroe was known as Norma Jeane Baker. And, as a 16-year-old, she wed her high-school classmate, Jim Dougherty. But the pair’s careers went in totally different directions: she went into modeling, and he joined the Merchant Marine. They divorced in 1946, but, 30 years later, he told People magazine that “she would still be Mrs. Dougherty” if he hadn’t gone to sea during World War II.
Once she had made it in Hollywood, Monroe’s love life became more of a rollercoaster. She was rumored to have had an affair with Charlie Chaplin, Jr., son of the Hollywood legend. The same went for her Ladies of the Chorus costar, Milton Berle, although it was the comedian himself who claimed to have had a tryst with her.
But the most famous alleged affairs in Monroe’s lifetime involved two members of one of America’s most storied families. It all started after she sang “Happy Birthday” for President John F. Kennedy at his 1962 birthday soiree at Madison Square Garden. Her sultry performance got people talking: was the Hollywood star involved with the leader of the free world?
Then came a second round of rumors, but this time JFK wasn’t the Kennedy supposedly involved with Monroe. No, it was his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. And according to the actress’s biographer, James Spada, both relationships had definitely transpired. He told People, “It was pretty clear that Marilyn had had sexual relations with both Bobby and Jack.”
Of course, not all of Monroe’s Hollywood relationships were secretive and scandalous. She first encountered playwright and author Arthur Miller when filming 1950’s As Young As You Feel. And, although she claimed to have fallen for him at first sight, they wouldn’t get together until 1955. In a year, they were married.
That same year, Monroe gushed about her relationship with Miller, although it would fall apart and end in divorce. She said, “We’re so congenial. This is the first time I’ve been really in love. Arthur is a serious man, but he has a wonderful sense of humor. We laugh and joke a lot. I’m mad about him.” Such a statement probably came as a surprise to her other husbands: Dougherty and baseball legend Joe DiMaggio.
Monroe’s relationship with DiMaggio fell in between her marriages to Dougherty and Miller. It all started in 1952, just as she started turning heads in Hollywood. At the same time, DiMaggio had just retired from an illustrious career in baseball. Some considered him the sport’s greatest player ever.
It may have appeared that a Hollywood siren and a sports legend had very little in common. But Monroe said that the two proved to be “very much alike,” according to Biography. For one thing, they had come from nothing to achieve incredible success in their fields. Perhaps that’s what drew them together on their first date.
Still, going into that initial meeting – arranged by a DiMaggio acquaintance – Monroe felt just as skeptical as outsiders did. She told a press conference, “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.”
And that was enough. After just one date, both Monroe and DiMaggio felt such a strong connection that they continued seeing each other despite their geographical challenges. He lived on the East Coast, and she, of course, lived on the other side of the country. All that cross-continental travel got people talking and, of course, the public had a lot to say about this new A-list relationship.
By then, though, Monroe had plenty of commonalities with which to counter the critics who thought she and DiMaggio were too different. As it turned out, both wanted to have kids and a happy, healthy home life. As she told Ben Hecht, the writer of her memoir, My Story, “The truth is that we were very much alike. My publicity, like Joe’s greatness, is something on the outside. It has nothing to do with what we actually are.”
It was no secret that DiMaggio and Monroe had some serious chemistry too. Rock Positano wrote Dinner With DiMaggio: Memories of an American Hero, and the baseball legend described his physical connection to the blonde as epic in the book. He said, “When we got together in the bedroom, it was like the gods were fighting.” He meant that in a good way, of course.
But their bond had so much more to it than just a physical attraction. Positano said that DiMaggio had had equally as much respect for Monroe’s smarts and vulnerable nature. And the pair wanted to make their bona fide connection official by getting married. At the time, though, the wedding of their dreams was simply not allowed.
Monroe had, of course, married and split from her high-school classmate, Dougherty, by the time she met DiMaggio. And he had ended his marriage to Dorothy Arnold in 1944. So neither the actress nor the baseball star could say “I do” in a church again: their divorces barred them from doing so.
So DiMaggio came up with another idea: a quick wedding at City Hall in San Francisco during a visit to his family in the Bay Area and a lull in Monroe’s career. According to Biography, she recalled him saying, “You’re having all this trouble with the studio and not working, so why don’t we get married now?” She clearly agreed, and the pair were married on January 14, 1954.
Only six people were supposed to attend DiMaggio and Monroe’s wedding, but, somehow, the press were alerted to the pair’s plans. A throng of reporters, photographers and fans showed up at City Hall to capture a glimpse of the famous pair on their big day. Even without the pomp and circumstance of a typical Hollywood wedding, though, they were a sight to see.
Monroe slipped into a chocolate brown suit with a fluffy ermine collar. Her two-day fiancé had on a suit, too, although his was dark blue. Sweetly, he donned the same tie that he had worn the first time he met his wife-to-be. The two walked into City Hall, and, after a three-minute ceremony in front of a judge, they were married.
Now, their spur-of-the-moment nuptials meant that Monroe and DiMaggio missed out on an extravagant celebration, as well as an engagement. So the starlet never got the traditional engagement ring to wear before sliding her wedding band onto her finger. Luckily, though, her husband selected a stunning piece of jewelry to commemorate their nuptials.
Monroe’s wedding band featured a whopping 36 baguette-cut diamonds set in platinum. The loop of sparklers was also called an eternity band, and some say DiMaggio picked it because he thought that’s how long his union with the actress would last. Indeed, both of them longed for long-lasting companionship and building a family together.
In 1999 – 45 years after DiMaggio and Monroe’s wedding – the actress’s wedding band came up for auction at Christie’s. The sparkler still retained 35 out of its 36 baguette-cut diamonds. Perhaps because of its significance in the revered star’s life, it fetched a whopping $772,500 when it went up for sale, in spite of having a max value of $50,000.
But when the ring went up for sale, the photos of it caught the eye of jewelry experts and Monroe’s most ardent fans. Zooming in closely on the pictures of the auctioned band and comparing that piece to the one she wore on her wedding day reveals that the two pieces don’t seem to match.
The ring that Monroe wore on her wedding day had an antique look to it, thanks to a cluster of stones around the top part of the band. Meanwhile, the one that went up for sale at Christie’s didn’t have those small, sparkling accents. Instead, it just had three-dozen baguette-cut diamonds lined up side by side.
The team behind The Marilyn Monroe Collection had a theory about the different rings. The one she wore on her wedding day – which has yet to appear on an auction block – could have been a DiMaggio family heirloom. Perhaps one of the baseball player’s relatives handed it over in honor of the big day.
This theory does, indeed, fit with the vibe of DiMaggio and Monroe’s wedding. They had hastily put the ceremony together in a couple of days, after all. Maybe they couldn’t find a suitable ring in 48 hours, so a family member handed over the heirloom for the pair to use temporarily.
If this theory is true then, at some point during their marriage, DiMaggio went on to find the perfect eternity band for his bride. Post-wedding photos of the actress capture the same ring that went up for auction in 1999. She wears it on the fourth finger of her left hand, and the loop of baguette-cut diamonds glitter on film.
So that stunning band definitely did grace Monroe’s ring finger during the course of her short marriage to DiMaggio. But no one knows what happened to the antique-looking ring she appeared to wear on her wedding day. The Marilyn Monroe Collection’s team theorizes that it may have gone back to the DiMaggio family after the marriage between the baseball legend and the actress ended.
Indeed, the relationship between Monroe and DiMaggio fell apart quickly after they waltzed into City Hall on a whim. Quite simply, the retired sportsman wanted a wife who took on a very traditional role: namely, he wanted his blonde bride home all of the time. Meanwhile, she wanted to expand her career and learn more about culture, which she couldn’t do while fully committed to her domestic duties.
It was Monroe’s film The Seven Year Itch that proved to be the last straw for DiMaggio. The movie contains a now-iconic scene in which she wears a white halter-top dress and stands over a subway grate. As the subterranean train rumbles by, it creates a breeze beneath her – and blows her skirt into the air.
DiMaggio and Monroe split after that, nine months after their surprise wedding. But the pair remained deeply connected to one another. Consider the letter that the retiree sent to his ex-wife after seeing her tearfully announce their divorce in public. He wrote, “I love you and want to be with you… There is nothing I would like better than to restore your confidence in me… My heart split even wider seeing you cry in front of all those people.”
Instead of reconciling with DiMaggio, though, Monroe moved on – and into a tumultuous marriage – with Miller. At the end, the actress was so emotionally battered that she ended up in a mental-health facility in New York. And after that, the person who came to check her out and watch over her was DiMaggio.
But DiMaggio couldn’t protect Monroe from everything: the actress famously struggled with anxiety, depression and addiction. A year after her release from the psychiatric facility, Monroe overdosed on barbiturates and died on August 4, 1962. Her second ex-husband planned her funeral and kept away the men who had hurt her, including then-president Kennedy and members of the Hollywood elite.
Some say that losing Monroe had been particularly devastating for DiMaggio because the pair had secretly planned to give their union another try. He never confirmed the rumor, but there was talk of another wedding in the works for 1962. A note found in the actress’s address book after her death certainly confirmed that she still had strong feelings for him when she passed.
According to The Marilyn Monroe Collection, the note read, “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…” Just like their love story, the message went unfinished.
The heartwrenching tale has a mirror in the ring that DiMaggio gave to Monroe, the one with the missing diamond. Although the eternity ring symbolized life spent together forever, it lost a diamond – and the chain was broken. Still, some say that this couple was, indeed, eternally in love with each other, and DiMaggio never remarried after losing her.