“Do I Give Back An Engagement Ring?”

“When do I give back an engagement ring?” If you've ever had to ask yourself this, I am so, so sorry. It's a tough situation to be in from an emotional standpoint, but it's also tricky from a financial one as well. Given the costs associated with engagement rings today, an engagement ring is an asset and should be handled properly, but what is the standard? The financial etiquette? Financial Best Life is here to help.

When Do I Give Back An Engagement Ring?

First, a Quick History on Engagement Rings

First, a little quick and dirty backstory on why engagement rings exist in the first place; while mired in the romance of today’s wedding industry, the genesis of the engagement ring is actually much more practical and business-like. Engagement rings functioned as a retainer for a merger between two families, a little insurance policy that the deal would go through.

As someone currently selling my home, the idea of the engagement ring is very similar to the idea of earnest money. A buyer puts up earnest money in good faith they are going to close on the home. Because I’ve received a financial concession, I (also in good faith) take my house off the market. If the buyer backs out then I should get to keep the earnest money because I took my home off the market for a certain period of time.

This metaphor is becoming belabored, but you get the idea.

Also according to this Salon article, many engagements included a little naughty sampling of the bride, even though brides were presumed chaste until the wedding night. This “sampling” is why the female was entitled to keep the ring if an engagement was broken off, most likely because many social circles would consider her damaged goods.

So, When Do I Give Back an Engagement Ring?

If we follow traditions of yesteryear, in the event of a breakup, the woman gets to keep the engagement ring no matter what. Depending upon the laws of the state you live in, the ring (typically given by a man) may be considered a “gift” in the eyes of the law, in which case the groom may have to forfeit rights to the ring in the event the split is particularly contentious.

But all things considered, it’s generally a good idea for whoever called off the engagement to forfeit the ring. If it’s the lady, she should give it back. If it’s the guy, he should let it go.

What if the parting of ways is “mutual?”

Then it makes sense to sell the ring and divide the proceeds equally. This is especially fair in the event the bride (or the bride’s family) has put down deposits for wedding related costs they will be unable to get back.

Diamond Lighthouse has great online resources for those looking to specifically sell old engagement rings, although they help with other diamond jewelry as well.

What if we marry and then divorce? Do I give back the engagement ring?

Typically in divorce proceedings, the engagement ring is the bride's to keep free and clear because, technically, the marriage contract is considered fulfilled. This awesome Huffington Post article details that in some cases exceptions may be made for family heirlooms.

Things Are Tough Enough as It is: Keep Things Polite

As per usual when money and emotions collide it can get complicated—fast. My best advice is that even though you may be angry, hurt, and exhausted – try and keep things as civil as possible. Communicate clearly and openly about what to do with the engagement ring, who will be handling the sale, and when payment is expected.

After all, the sooner you wrap things up, the sooner you can move on.

*this post is Sponsored by Diamond Lighthouse. 


If you're wondering, "When do I give back and engagement ring?" Here's a guide on how to handle this process with ease.

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  • Christina Scalera
    November 18, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Georgia law regards the engagement as a contract and the ring as consideration of satisfaction of that contract. If you fail to satisfy the performance requirement of that contract, aka get married, Georgia law says you have to give the consideration, aka ring, back no matter who broke it off. In conclusion, booooooo. Boring attorney disclaimer- this is not legal advice. Seek counsel!

    • Lauren Bee
      November 18, 2015 at 12:38 pm

      Thanks for chiming in! I know laws vary state to state, but it’s good to know what goes down in GA 🙂

  • Jen @ KeenConsumer
    November 12, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    I’m currently trying to sell my home also and it has been tough! I like the analogy of the earnest money deposit. Many have viewed our house but until they “put the ring on it”, the house is not sold to anyone!

    • Lauren Bee
      November 12, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      I like it too! Thanks for commenting, Jen 🙂