Debate This: Do You Have To Return The Ring If The Engagement Ends?

It never fails to amaze me that every time I write a post about broken engagements, many commenters are most interested in discussing what the proper etiquette is when it comes to keeping or giving back the engagement ring. [You know where I stand and, as expected, some of you disagreed. In general I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all approach and you should definitely do what feels right for you and your former fiance. However, the “experts” do have strong opinions on the matter. This “Debate This” ran in March 2008 (before I got un-engaged, FYI), but I believe it covers two popular views on the issue. — Editor]

Engagements are all congratulatory wishes and bridal showers until they end without a wedding. Along with the usual breakup activities — “dividing of things,” “starting over of lives” — there’s the even more awkward “deciding of who gets to keep the 10-karat (or 1-karat) ring.” According to a Conde Nast Bridal Media study, the average engagement ring cost is $4,435, so this ain’t chump change. We ask two people in the wedding industry who gets to keep the rock, after the jump, and then ask you to take a position in the comments.

The ring should always be returned. It’s a token of the marriage to come, and when that marriage doesn’t happen, that token becomes inappropriate. Why would you want a reminder of a failed relationship? It’s not like this is a consolation prize in monetary value. Even if the man cheats, that’s not what this is about. If you’ve already said goodbye to the relationship, it’s time to say goodbye to the ring. — Anna Post, author of Emily Post’s Wedding Parties

Usually the engagement ring is a gift in expectation of a promise, that promise being marriage. Typically, if that promise doesn’t come to fruition, the engagement ring should be returned. However, there are certain exceptions, including when the ring is given when it could also be construed as a regular gift. For example, if the gift is given on a birthday, that could be a birthday gift, a Christmas gift, and so on. She could say, “Wait a minute, he didn’t give me a birthday gift, he gave me an engagement ring, that’s my gift.” Maybe it wasn’t a promise that was given, maybe it was just a straight gift. That’s when I would believe that she would have some grounds to stand on for keeping the ring. — Seth Bloomgarden, a director and gemologist at Belenky Brothers, a six-generation jeweler with clients ranging from rock stars to royalty.

We say: If he cheats or breaks off the engagement for a reason that doesn’t pertain to something bad that she did, she should be able to keep the ring, if she wants. However, if the engagement is called off by mutual decision, if she breaks it off on her own accord, or if she cheats or does something pathological, the ring goes back to him. So what do you think? We’re dying to hear your thoughts on the subject!