Broken Engagements – Who Keeps the Ring?
Stop the Presses; Newspaperman Tackles Ticklish Engagement Ring Ownership Subject
There sat the email from an East Coast reporter. Subject line: Broken Engagements - Who Keeps the Ring?
This reporter wanted a wedding Jeweler's input on the delicate question: “What happens if an engagement is broken, to the admittedly expensive engagement ring?”
It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Living in Santa Barbara (one of the #1 wedding locales) and having designed many custom engagement rings and wedding rings, I do have an expert opinion about this. Here’s what I shared with him after reminding him as a Santa Barbara-based jewelry designer (note: this is not legal advice):
Five Things I Think About the Etiquette of Broken Engagements and Who Keeps the Ring
- If a couple is engaged more than a year I think she keeps it. However, if the center diamond is from his family and meaningful, she may need to return the family diamond.
- If they were planning the wedding and invitations went out, and he breaks it off, she totally keeps the ring. In a way as payback for investing her time, her heart, keeping herself free for him, and the embarrassment of not getting married after telling god and everyone they were going to.
- If she breaks the engagement, she returns the ring. If he was untrue, she keeps it.
- If he breaks it she keeps it. But if she was untrue she should return it.
- Back to the family diamond issue, if he breaks the engagement and invitations were sent, she keeps the ring. If the family offers a reasonable diamond to replace the family one, she should return the family diamond. It means more to his family than it would to her.
These are my opinions and have no law that I'm aware of behind them.
Calla Gold, Santa Barbara Engagement and Wedding Ring designer AND the "Emily Post of Jewelry Etiquette"
I’d have to agree with this for the most part. The one that breaks it off loses say.
But personally, I don’t know if I’d want to keep my engagement ring unless I were to ask a personal jeweler (hint, hint) to reuse the diamond(s) to make something I could wear out and about as a newly single woman.
Renee, it’s true that the engagement ring that the ex-bride-to-be now has, comes with memory baggage. I’ve re-purposed a number of these rings into, as you said, “newly single woman” jewelry.
It’s been a fun and empowering experience for these women. They earned that diamond, but don’t want to wear it as a bad memory, but as a lovely re-created thing of beauty.
I guess I never realized how complicated all this could be. There certainly are a lot of nuances! I just had a woman at my work out share how she just got back two diamond pieces of jewelry that her then-husband had originally given her over 20 years ago. He is remarried and she is remarried and divorced a second time and this just got resolved. She just asked him for the pieces and after all this time he was (according to her happily) willing to give them back. So I guess these sagas can really live on in minds… Read more »
Dr. Jones, thank you for sharing the story you heard. I’m glad he gave her back her jewelry gifts after all that time. It probably was nice closure for them both.
I appreciate you sharing that.
I know someone who had to go to court and invest months of her life, oodles of her dollars, and tons of tears to resolving the issue of “who gets the ring when the engagement is called off.” What do you advise if one of the pair DIES? I know someone that happened to and the ring possession came into question.
Kymberly, thanks for your interesting situations. Having to go to court over this issue is so sad. The breakup is bad enough no doubt.
If one of the pair dies, I’d like to see the deceased’s family be sensitive to the engaged and bereaved one and not contest them keeping the ring.
The ring is a gift and a pledge of love. If the pledger dies, it’s still a gift. And it should stay with who it was given to.