Broken Engagement: Who Gets to Keep the Ring?

by TTMK on October 29, 2012 · 15 comments

Broken engagements can mean broken hearts, or they can mean indifference.  In some cases, they can bring controversy.  In particular, issues can arise in terms of who returns the ring when an engagement is broken.  As we know, many rings are quite expensive!

There can possibly be legalities involved, and maybe even precedent in some states on how these things should be handled from that standpoint.  I won’t go into that here, as I’m not an expert on the law.  What I will do, however, is get into my thoughts on what seems fair about how to handle different situations.

Who Keeps the Ring if the Guy Breaks the Engagement

If the guy breaks off the engagement, and the girl is hurt by the situation, she deserves to keep the ring.  Now, I suppose she could repurpose it for something else. Or, sell it and pocket whatever money she gets.  But the bottom line is that in that case, I think it she should keep it.  The one exception I can see is if he gave her an heirloom ring from his family.  In this case, I think she should return it even if he broke the engagement.

Who Keeps the Ring if the Girl Breaks the Engagement

If the girl breaks off the engagement, and the guy is hurt by the situation, she needs to give the ring back to him.  Sure, one could say the ring was a gift. But let’s be real here – the ring is a conditional gift.  It’s not given just because the guy feels like buying super expensive jewelry to make her happy. Rather, he’s buying it to make her happy AND secure her engagement for marriage.  If she breaks the engagement, the ring should be returned.  Now, what he should do with it is another topic which I’ll return to later.

Who Keeps the Ring if Both Parties Mutually End the Engagement

In this case, things get a bit blurry.  Well, like I mentioned before, I think that rings are conditional gifts.  So, should the girl automatically keep the ring? I don’t think so. But, by the same token, I don’t think that the guy can just expect to get the ring back.

In this case, I think that taking the high road and returning the ring would probably be the nice thing to do.  After all, these are expensive things.  But if you’re the guy in this situation, just expect to not get it back. You may not even want it back, who knows?  Bottom line is that just hope for the best, but plan on not getting it back and just being fine with it.

Regifting a Ring

Okay, a bit of a separate topic here, but let’s say the engagement ended, and the guy got the ring back.  What should he do with it? She he – gasp – save it with the idea of giving it someone else in the future?

I heard of somebody who supposedly did this. Now, I never asked him personally, and I have no idea what the earlier ring looked like.  Frankly, I don’t really pay attention to the rings that women wear,  which is typical for guys.

But if he truly did this as was claimed, I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I totally get that rings can be outrageously expensive and that it would be a tough pill to swallow if you had to pawn it off for much less than you paid for it.  However, you just can’t make the woman happy with a ring that was originally given to someone else.  The story about how you bought the ring – if she cares about that stuff – will not make her happy.

Now, while I don’t think that life needs to be a fairy tale – and some people take that concept way too far –  I do think that there are some things that are simply a matter of good taste. This is a case where regifting a ring won’t be something done in good taste.  Thus, it’s best to get rid of it.  If a guy is fortunate enough to meet the right person at some time in the future, he can buy her a ring that’s all about their relationship.

My Questions for You

What do you think about the above thoughts on “who keeps the ring”?

What are your thoughts on regifting a ring? Meaning, giving a previously returned ring to another person in the future?

Have you ever known anyone in such a situation? What ended up happening?

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Edward Antrobus October 29, 2012 at 7:13 am

When my buddy was applying for law school, this was the essay question he had to answer.

As far as regifting a ring, I would broach the subject with her first to gauge her reaction. My wife is the only woman I ever dated for more than a couple months, so that’s one conversation I’ve never had to worry about!


TTMK October 29, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Edward – interesting! I’m guessing there have been all kinds of conflicts people have gotten into over who keeps the expensive jewlery in the unfortunate circumstance of a breakup. Probably best to get specific advice from a professional if such a situation happens!


Emily @ evolvingPF October 29, 2012 at 8:33 am

I think you’re mostly right on but if I remember properly there are differences when the ring is given on a typical gifting holiday like the bride’s birthday, Christmas, etc. In that case the conditionality of the ring is waived and the fiancee gets to keep the ring even if she’s the one who broke the engagement. I think morally though she should still return it in that case.

I would feel weird receiving an engagement ring originally meant for someone else so I think the jilted groom should take the hit and sell the ring. It’s the same feeling as receiving a gift meant for anyone else but amplified.


TTMK October 29, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Emily – I agree with you on the gift aspect, as well as your comment on the morally right thing to do. Good points. Also, I agree that the guy should take the hit and get rid of the ring and try to capture some value for it. After all, taking another view of it, wouldn’t it feel bad to look at the ring for 50 years or whatever, knowing that it was truly for another person?


Kathleen @ Frugal Portland October 29, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Does it matter if the new bride-to-be never, EVER knows? If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, does the dude still have to get a new ring? Furthermore, what kind of jilted dude keeps a ring around JUST IN CASE? Why not try your best to get your money back? This is why dudes should just get old antique rings and say that they were their grandmothers — no girl would keep his grama’s ring!


TTMK October 29, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Kathleen –

LOL. I suppose that’s a crafty strategy, to get an old ring and claim it to be grandma’s. It might save money too…I appreciate your creative thinking 🙂

Really though, I think the idea of buying a ring that works for her, and is NOT regifted (unless truly a family heirloom), is a good way to go. Just don’t get caught up in buying something costing 2 or 3 months salary!


Catherine October 29, 2012 at 7:01 pm

He buys it- he gets it back. If I broke off an engagement I’d give it back, if he did, I wouldn’t want it anyway!


TTMK October 31, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Catherine – seems fair and open minded!


Jason November 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Oh man, what a touchy subject for some people! I would totally agree with your assessment. If the woman breaks it off she better give that ring back!


TTMK November 1, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Jason – yes, a touchy subject for some folks indeed!


Erica April 13, 2013 at 1:49 pm

I think the female should keep the rings if the guy broke the engagement.


TTMK April 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Probably a popular sentiment on this issue…


john May 4, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I’m going thru this right now. She gave me her grandma’s bridal set and we used 10 melee diamonds from that set all about .15 carat each to go into the new bridal set for her. I bought a beautiful 1.07k flawless blue diamond (treated) and 4 additional melees to round out the set, plus of course paid for the custom work and for the 25 grams of gold that went into it.

She of course has the engagement ring, I have the wedding band and the gold from the heirloom bridal set along with the .8 carat center stone from that.

She broke the engagement out of the freaking blue man! Now she is demanding I return her heirloom! I want her to have her grandma’s stuff back, but I’m also out 8,000 dollars. She didn’t even have the engagement ring on for 2 months! We been together for 3 years, had our ups and downs, but pushed through it, or so I thought!

I tried and tried to make it work, but she turned extremely nasty with me! I think it would be really unfair for her to keep 8,000 worth of jewelry that I bought! The rings obviously are going to have to be destroyed for her to get her grandma’s heirlooms back, so I won’t even be able to sell the rings!

I think it’s outrageous for a woman to break something off that has been 3 years in the making less than two months after I drop 8k on something that is supposed to last forever.

I told her that she needs to give back the engagement ring and I will give her back her grandma’s .85 carat diamond and gold that the 10 melees were plucked out of. Then I will go to the jeweler and have them replace the 10 diamonds from her grandma’s ring with 10 more diamonds that I buy. I also told her that since she wanted to go to the jeweler and try to buy out my in house finance with them (I paid it off), for 3.3k that she needs to give me the 3.3k so I can replace her grandma’s melee diamonds and try and get something for the set.

The set appraised at 12.5k with the 2 carats of meless channel set in 2 thick rings and the 1.07 carat center stone on a 4 prong mounting.

If I rip out those diamonds I won’t even get 4k for the left over “material” cause that is all that will be left. Maybe 1k for the gold and if I am really lucky 3k for the 1.07 carat diamond and the 4 .15 carat melees!

She will basically be wiping me out of almost 5k of nominal value and 8k of appraised insurable value! I even offered to pay the $500 it will cost to have her grandmas ring recast! Nope! She want’s ALL of it! Crazy! We’ll have to go to court for this if she don’t wise up soon!


Karen January 6, 2014 at 8:38 am

My ex-fiancé and I have been broken up for over 3 years now. The ring he gave me is one that we had my mother’s diamond remounted into. Now that I’m getting married again, he wants me to pay him for that ring, along with the wedding bands, since, at the time we broke our engagement, they couldn’t be returned. In all fairness, he did reimburse me the money I spent on the wedding dress. He’s only asking for this money now because he wants us to get back together and he feels that I owe him this much. What is anyone’s opinion on this?


Ceridwen October 21, 2015 at 7:50 pm

I’m an attorney. While I can’t speak for the law in every state, in my state an engagement ring is a CONDITIONAL gift, so it doesn’t matter who breaks the engagement–the ring gets returned to the party who gave it. Nor does it matter whether he gave you the engagement ring at Christmas, at Valentine’s Day, at your birthday, on the anniversary of the day you first met/had your first date/first kiss, etc. A conditional gift means just that–in order to keep it, you have to meet the conditions. There are strings attached. In the case of an engagement ring, the condition is that the two of get married. If not, then the condition hasn’t been met (and it does NOT matter which party breaks the engagement) and you return the ring to him.

If he refuses to take it, then that is another matter, but legally, you don’t have a right to the ring if you don’t get married. The other question I always have when faced with these questions is: why do you want to keep something (especially an engagement ring) that is a reminder of a failed relationship? If it is to hurt him or to get back at him, I don’t get it. You’re no longer together. If you’re thinking that you’ll be able to sell it for a lot of money, think again. Engagement rings have a huge mark-up in price, and since they’re so individual and personal, re-sale tends to be very low. I haven’t had a single client who was able to re-sell the ring or return the ring and get what he paid for it. Give him the ring back, lick your wounds, get some therapy if necessary (to figure out what happened/why you broke up/what went wrong), and move on.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: