The Rules of (Broken) Engagement

Diamond-Lighthouse-broker-broken heart

He asked the Big Question. You said “Yes!” He slipped the dazzling diamond ring on to your finger. You gazed into each other’s eyes. Then…something went awry. The magic left as quickly as it came and the engagement was officially switched to “off” status. So…now the even Bigger Question: keep or give back the ring?

There are obviously two schools of thought on this highly sensitive issue. On one hand, the ring can be viewed as a present from one person to another; and a present is not something that is typically given back to the bestower. On the other, the ring symbolizes the inception of an eternal union; if that union doesn’t even have a chance to come to fruition, the current holder of the ring really shouldn’t bear claim to it. We’ll begin with the former.


Throughout everyone’s lives, people receive gifts (hopefully).  Sometimes they are home/hand made items with immeasurable sentimental value.  Other times, they are shiny, glittery things, synonymous with the price tags attached to them.  The diamond engagement ring embodies both of these characteristics; it has intrinsic emotional significance as well as that iconic glint that screams “this is worth a lot of cashola.”  When the ring is placed on one’s finger, the implication is that it is forever.  It is an offering, given without recompense.  The only thing the ring wearer is inherently expected to give back in return is “love.”  Clearly this is not a quality that is easy to quantify.  The bottom line is that the ring was given freely, and accepted; a mutual love was there (again, one can hope).  Whatever happens beyond that moment is irrelevant.  The moment was, for all intents and purposes, perfect, and everything that occurred within it should remain as unblemished as possible.  The ring is yours to do with whatever you please.

Where it gets complicated:

If the person who gave the ring calls off the engagement, it seems to further strengthen the argument that the receiver has every right to keep the ring.  Why should they be punished twice (first with the knowledge that their emotional life has been shattered, and then with the final insult of having to return the ring, as if they are not worthy of it)?  One aspect that can make the whole scenario quite awkward is if the ring wearer is the one who ends things.  It may seem a little selfish of them to want to keep the ring at this point, yet the fact remains: it was a gift.  It is theirs.


Now, on to the other side of the matrimonial coin.  Regardless of the circumstances, if an engagement is called off, all the accoutrements that went along with it are essentially null and void.  Even the most modest engagement ring is going to have cost a pretty penny (the standard still being “two months salary”).  As such, the person who accepted the ring has no true ownership of this expensive expression of betrothal, since what it represents no longer exists.  For whatever reason, the pact has been fractured, and it just makes sense for everyone to start off in the same situation they were in to begin with.  The giver should have the ring back so that they can either use it down the road (which, yes, seems a trifle icky) or at least attempt to recover some of the capital they lost on this investment.

Where it gets complicated:

If the acceptor of the ring has decided to dash their lover’s dream of a life spent together, it seems fairly obvious that the dream destroyer should return the ring.  Holding on to it makes the acceptor seems avaricious, at best.  Now, if the giver of the ring wants to permanently end things, this changes the entire storyline.  The acceptor, if they want to walk away from the whole painful affair with their head held high, could simply return the ring.  Also, one simply might not want to retain an object that represents a failed love affair.


The final thing to consider here is the time frame.  There seems to be a nebulous window of acceptability where it is appropriate to keep or give back the ring.  If one decides that they don’t want to marry this person that has asked them, say, the following day, it seems pretty indisputable that they should give back the ring at once.  If the engagement has lasted over a year, and the ring giver is the one who finally terminates things, it seems almost as if there has been a “statute of limitations” reached on retracting the ring.  Here the concept “possession is nine-tenths of the law” has never ringed truer.

Wherever you personally stand on this issue, the debate will not be resolved anytime soon.  The good news is that if you ultimately end up with the broken-engagement ring, be you the original giver or the final recipient, there is a wonderful place that will help you convert this agonizing object of the past into well deserved cash for your future.  Welcome to Diamond Lighthouse.  Send us your diamond ring and within weeks you will be healing old wounds with a glorious check.

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-Joe Leone 



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