LOVE/HATE: The “Mine, All Mine!” Edition

calling off a wedding

Here’s a little something from Slate’s DoubleX that talks about engagement rings – specifically what is to be done with them in the event that the wedding is called off.

Christopher Reinhold of Staten Island says the diamond ring he gave to Collette DiPierro, who broke off their engagement in September 2009 after four months and growing doubts, is rightfully his. He has sued her to get it back. In his New York state-court suit, Reinhold says that he gave DiPierro the ring upon her promise to marry him. Since she broke off the engagement and the marriage did not take place, the deal, he says, is off. But DiPierro says that because Reinhold proposed on her birthday, the $17,500 ring was a gift, not a token symbolizing a promise to marry. So she can keep it. Or, actually, spend it: Neither Reinhold nor DiPierro claims sentimental attachment; both would be happy with the ring’s cash value.

I know that an engagement ring ought to be a gift, not a contract or a payment in advance of future “services,” but in court contract law usually wins out and apparently agreeing to marry someone means entering into a verbal contract of which the ring is a part. Tres unromantic! Etiquette, of course, agrees that giving it back is the thing to do, but bad blood sometimes wins out over good manners.

What I’ve always wondered about the never-bride who keeps the ring is what she is going to do with it. Wear it? That could be awkward. Keep it at the bottom of her jewelry box? Again, awkward – I don’t like having old jewelry given to me by exes around. Sell it? Maybe I’m alone in thinking this, but that seems rather mean spirited – though if the giver of the ring was very abusive I might just say hock the thing for plane tix to somewhere awesome.

Calling off a wedding is such an emotionally charged thing to do, so do you really want a piece of bling (or the cash equivalent) reminding you that you or your once spouse-to-be said “I don’t” before anyone had a chance to say “I do”?

I HATE the idea that it’s even an issue. What does it matter if the ring was a gift or a way to seal the deal or something else? My idea of good manners does not include trying to profit off of a failed relationship (unless, as I mentioned above, there are some serious issues involved). Now you tell me: Is there any situation you can think of in which keeping the ring would be a love, not a hate?

11 Responses to “LOVE/HATE: The “Mine, All Mine!” Edition”

  1. casablanca July 29, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    I think this is a terrible situation to be in and I think trying to profit off a failed relationship sucks. But, I kind of think the ring counts as a gift. I mean, once my husband gave me my ring he could no longer carry the rider policy on his homeowner’s insurance (we didn’t live together) and I had to buy a policy to cover the ring because according to the insurance company it belonged to me. That said, I don’t know what I’d do with the ring of an ex-fiance…keeping it would be awkward, selling it seems mean spirited.

    So I guess I’m still on the fence. :)

  2. Cassie July 29, 2010 at 3:25 pm #

    I’ve always felt that there is separate etiquette about broken engagements; to wit, that who gets the ring is the person who didn’t break off the relationship. Unless there’s something extenuating, like infidelity, abuse, or something like that, of course.

    I’m also going to say that, if the woman keeps it, it may be crass to sell the ring, but any number of men whose fiancees break the engagement sell them. They can count it as recouping their losses, but it’s not like they’re getting all Miss Havisham over the ring either.

  3. La Petite Acadienne July 29, 2010 at 6:33 pm #

    I had a situation like this actually. I was engaged, and we were young, and had no idea how to make a relationship work, so we just started drifting apart.

    After awhile we knew it wasn’t going to work. We were both very, very sad about it — we loved each other, but we just didn’t know how to be together.

    I offered the ring back. He knew that I wanted to go back to school, and told me to take the ring, and to sell it, and to put it towards my tuition.

    So that’s what I did, and I now have a fantastic career. Last I heard of him, he was married, with kids, and also had his dream job as a pilot, so it seems like karma worked out for him and repaid him for his kindness to me — and I’m very happy about that and wish him nothing but the best.

  4. HeidiAphrodite July 29, 2010 at 6:34 pm #

    My case was interesting. My ex didn’t have a job at the time he proposed, and I already had a collection of shiny rings, so we used one of my own as a temporary engagement ring until he could get one designed for me. He wanted me to wear the diamond and pink sapphire ring I bought for myself when I turned 30, and that just made it even more special. After a couple of weeks, he showed me the sketch of the “real” ring, which was gorgeous and very symbolic to the two of us. When he dumped me, I made my mom put my ring away so I wouldn’t have to see it. The day I reclaimed it as MINE that I bought for MYSELF was a pretty amazing day for me. Sure, I remember it as part of a hard engagement and even harder breakup (it came out of nowhere), but it’s also a ring I bought to celebrate who I was. I wear it with pride now.

    I took a metal smithing/jewelry making class the summer after the break-up, and I remember melting some metal with a torch and thinking that I’d have given the “real” engagement ring back to him, but melted into a ball with the diamond in the middle of it, because I wouldn’t have wanted to be reminded of his lies. ha ha.

    If this ever happens to me again (heaven forbid), I’ll give the ring back. I wouldn’t want it hanging around anywhere near me. He can deal with it.

    It’s a hard thing to go through, and the ring shouldn’t cause any more tension and stress and pain that it already has. Get rid of it. Be done.

  5. Toni July 29, 2010 at 7:00 pm #

    Unfortunately, I’ve also been in this position, not because of a broken engagement, but a failed marriage.

    We parted on just about the best terms possible, and I offered the ring back, but he told me to keep it. For now, it’s just hanging around in the safe (not that it’s worth THAT much) but I’ve considered eventually having the diamond made into a necklace, or saving up the money for a matching stone, and getting earrings made.

  6. Rene W. July 29, 2010 at 11:55 pm #

    That would be a terrible predicument, but it happens… most people I know who have divorced within a year of their marrage, the men have been gentlemen and let the bride keep the ring as a gift. I guess it all comes down to circumstances & maturity.

  7. John Price-Engagement Rings Sydney July 30, 2010 at 2:34 pm #

    I think the engagement ring is a gift to the bride. My 2 cents worth!

  8. Twistie July 31, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    Most states and Miss Manners agree that the lady should give the ring back. If – as some of you have experienced – the gentleman prefers the lady to keep it (and to be fair, most men have little use for a woman’s diamond ring), she is free to do as she pleases with it.

    But this story illustrates why it’s a good idea not to give the ring on a traditional gift giving day if there’s any question whatsoever of the relationship falling apart. While she knows perfectly well that the ring is an engagement ring, it was given her on her birthday, which allows her to claim that it was just a birthday gift.

    My take? If Mr. Twistie and I had parted ways before marrying, I wouldn’t have wanted to look at the ring again… and he probably wouldn’t have wanted it back, either. In monetary terms it isn’t worth very much, either, so selling it wouldn’t have done much for either one of us.

    Maybe we would have taken the Harold and Maude approach and chucked it into the bay.

  9. Snuze August 2, 2010 at 3:43 am #

    In Islam, the party who broke off the engagement are supposed to return all the gifts (engagement rings included) to the party who gifted it. Unless explicitly told by the giver that the other party may keep the gifts.

  10. Anne August 3, 2010 at 11:21 pm #

    It really should depend on the circumstances. If the engagement was broken off on more or less good terms where the party who purchased the ring wants the other party to keep it and do with it what they see fit, then it’s perfectly fine. Same if the purchasing party is abusive or whatever.

    And an alternative to pitching rings no longer need it: donate it to some charity or something.

  11. wildflower August 6, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    When I gave my abusive ex-husband the boot after a brief marriage, I gave all of his family heirloom jewels back to his mother, and gave all of the jewelry that he bought me new to the local animal shelter, where they had a local designer polish them up and rework them as necessary. They were auctioned at a charity auction, which means they probably got top dollar! That made me feel good.