Carl’s Ring

There is a kaleidoscope of stories, quotes, and photographs associated with fashion icon Iris Apfel, now 97. But there was one mystery that remained unsolved (to me, anyway), until now: Carl’s ring.

Iris and Carl Apfel were married 67 years before he died in 2015, just days away from his 101st birthday. For 57 of those years, Carl wore a gold Egyptian ring called The Wandering Jew. Naturally, because this is Iris, it has a wonderful story behind it which she recounts in her book, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon. An intriguing tale she had not told before the publication of this book.

from my post: Iris In Print
Illustration: Ruben Toledo, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon

However, there was no accompanying photo of this ring, just a few fanciful sketches. Iris described it as shaped like a lion in the form of a throne chair. Not easy to imagine. Remarkably, I couldn’t find it anywhere online either. My curiosity remained unsatisfied.

Illustration: Ruben Toledo, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon

Iris convinced an Irish antiquarian to sell it off his own finger during one of the couple’s antiquing trips for their company, Old World Weavers, despite it being definitively Not For Sale. I won’t spoil the story for those who haven’t read it but suffice it to say, Iris prevailed. The large ring was inscribed with the phrase, Where Is the House of Thy Father? and once belonged to King Farouk. 

Illustration: Ruben Toledo, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon

It became a fixture on Carl’s finger because he couldn’t actually remove it!

Illustration: Ruben Toledo, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon

Two days before he died, the ring finally fell off.

Illustration: Ruben Toledo, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon

In a Guardian interview, last year, Iris was asked what her most treasured possession is. She answered:

The Wandering Jew ring that belonged to my husband, Carl, is very important to me. We bought it in Dublin on his birthday on 4 August 1958, and he wore it until he died.

Illustration: Ruben Toledo, Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon

Yesterday, whilst Google searching the phrase Iris Apfel at home, I clicked on one of the 1,960,000 results and there it was! In amongst photos of Iris’s eclectic apartment was a picture of the ring on Carl’s finger! No text, no explanation, no description, just one crystal clear image. It was reprinted from Vogue Paris, 2009.

The House of Iris and Carl Apfel, Lost In Fabrics, August 2017

It’s an amazing ring and a poignant photo.
A true treasure.


The Truth Is In the Hands
Living Her Best Life
Pure Pleasure
Words of Wisdom
Iris In Print
Keeping Up with Iris
Iris Update
Icon: Iris Apfel
Wit & Whimsy
The Anti-Trend Trend
Making Up
Something Pretty

TO BUY: Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon: Amazon



  1. jodie filogomo
    July 22, 2019

    Talk about a great story!!

  2. July 22, 2019

    Wow what an interesting story! That is crazy that the ring could not be removed even with surgery. And I love the illustrations in this book. I will have to pick this up. Great post!

    Allie of

  3. July 22, 2019

    Such a unique ring and inspiring story! xo Nipa

  4. August 11, 2019

    This was a fascinating read! I’ve been meaning to watch her documentary. I immediately went to Netflix to see if “Iris” was still available; and, sadly, it wasn’t. But if your US readers are keen, it is on Hulu.

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