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Broken Engagements - Who Gets The Ring


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Broken engagements are tough to deal with, and one of the tougher questions is what to do with the ring. An Upper East Side man is suing his ex to return a 4.06 carat cushion-cat diamond ring worth $48,000. The Sun reported that the man's lawyer "declined to say which partner ended the engagement," because the ex should return it. Says who, the judge of etiquette?

Emily Post that the woman should return the ring, even if the guy breaks it off.


Her website says, "Why keep a painful reminder of the end of an engagement just to be spiteful? It’s better to take the high road and move on." And according to experts (a married couple) on About.com, New York is a "conditional gift state," where the ring is considered a "conditional gift that is given in contemplation of marriage." In other words, she gives it up if there's no "I do."

We saw someone on WNBC say that engagement rings given on holidays (say a birthday or Valentine's Day) could be considered gifts, and therefore the woman would not need to return it, but a commenter says that's incorrect, though some lawsuits have given women ring custody if the guy breaks it off.


What do you say? In the court of public opinion, should the guy expect his ring back? Should the lady return it? Or could she keep it.

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Laws vary from state to state, but, generally speaking, there is case precedence already in place that says that an engagement ring is a gift as part of a contract or agreement.. The agreement being that you get married.. Once the agreement is called off, the ring returns to the give since the contract was not fulfulled..


That's the legal answer..


My personal answer is that it depends on who broke up, and sometimes even why..

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It’s kind of a complicated question. The ‘deposit on a contract that didn’t happen’ argument actually favors the consumers, which is why most states do it (all of this assumes that the man purchased the ring with funds that were entirely his own and gave it to the woman with no renumeration or other contractual strings attached. This is not the only possible scenerio of course). An alternative logic is that it’s a gift and it belongs to the recipient just like any other gift. The zinger of this one is that a $48k gift from someone who is not your spouse is a taxable event in the Unites States. Assuming that the ex-bride is already in a significant tax bracket due to her other activities, the taxable obligation associated with such a gift can be considerable.



Edited by denverappraiser
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One of my customers emailed me this article from philly.com ( Thanks Janet)


Janet Grace's near-wedding experience is a cautionary tale of love, charity, and a $35,000 diamond ring that has Harrisburg rethinking the rules of engagement.


What she wants you to know is this: It's his ring until you're hitched, so says the law in Pennsylvania.


Grace, a 46-year-old construction manager from Philadelphia, is learning that the hard way, and she might pay dearly.


In December 2004, a mutual friend introduced Grace to Mario Mele, a former Montgomery County commissioner.


In the spring, he gave her a whopper of a ring - an eye-popping 2 1/3-carat, flawless princess-cut diamond set in hand-crafted platinum.


Less than two months later, Mele, 64, abruptly broke it off and asked for the rock back. She refused, sold the stone, and gave the proceeds to charity. Grace, who designed the ring, kept the setting and had it fitted with a cubic zirconia.


Now, Mele is suing her for the $35,000 appraised value of the ring, plus an additional $100,000 in damages. The whole episode, he contends in the lawsuit filed in December in Philadelphia, has caused him "embarrassment, humiliation, anxiety, and other personal injuries. "


The law appears to be on his side.


In 1999, a divided state Supreme Court set precedent on the issue, ruling in a case involving a Western Pennsylvania couple.


"Pennsylvania law treats the giving of an engagement ring as a conditional gift," Justice Sandra Schultz Newman wrote in the 4-3 opinion. The woman must return it if the marriage does not occur, Newman wrote, "even if the donor broke the engagement. "


In one dissenting opinion, Justice Ralph J. Cappy criticized the majority, citing tradition that dates back more than 11 centuries that dictates whoever reneges on a pledge of marriage surrenders the ring.


In defending the suit, Grace insists her case presents a different set of facts that the court hasn't yet addressed.


When the two started dating, Grace said in an interview, Mele made it clear he wasn't looking to marry. But he later asked her to set a wedding date.


Then came the ring, with a condition attached: Mele asked that it be the only diamond ring that she would own, she recalled. So she gave five of her rings to charity and a sixth to a niece. In all, it was about $20,000 worth of jewelry, she said.


She never would have done that if she would later be asked to give back the engagement ring.


"My ring was not a gift. I had to give up something to receive it," said Grace, who ran her own architecture firm in Philadelphia from 2000 to 2004. "If I had not given up anything, I would have been happy to give it back. "


The suit alleges that Grace acted "in reckless disregard" of Mele's rights and was motivated "by personal spite and greed. "


Mele, the owner of a dental insurance agency who served as a Montgomery County commissioner for eight years ending in 2000, refused comment, referring calls to his attorney, Joel Trigiani.


Trigiani said Mele never asked Grace to give up her other rings. It was her idea alone, he said, but even if he had, that doesn't matter in the eyes of the law.


"Everyone has a story. Everyone says they have damages," Trigiani said. "But the Supreme Court ruling is clear and definite. "


When engagements shatter, who gets to keep the ring depends on where you live.


Pennsylvania is one of several states, including New Jersey and New York, that side with the man. California, too, backs the guy, unless he breaks it off. But courts in Montana have held that the ring is an unconditional gift that need not be returned.


Wedding experts are likewise divided.


Mark Kingsdorf, the owner of the Queen of Hearts Wedding Consultants in Philadelphia, believes that from an etiquette standpoint, the ring is merely a gift.


"It's not a binding contract," said Kingsdorf. "My concern now is whether we are going to do prenuptial agreements upon engagement: I give you this ring and ask you to marry me, but please sign this and state that it's not a gift.


"Is that the next step? "


Grace's story has caught the attention of State Sen. Joe Conti (R., Bucks), whose office is drafting legislation that could be introduced in Harrisburg as early as mid-March. The bill is in the preliminary stages, and it is unclear what final form it would take.


Vicki Wilken, Conti's legislative counsel, said the senator is considering a range of options, from requiring Pennsylvania jewelers to post notices about the state law to publishing the information in state-issued consumer-protection pamphlets.


Conti is in discussions with the Attorney General's Office to determine the best approach.


"We are looking at all this stuff," said Wilken, who acknowledged that even as a lawyer, she was shocked to learn of the law. "It's not widely known. I didn't know it, and we want to educate people so they don't end up in the same situation as Janet."

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  • 2 weeks later...

...or you can get your ring back the way I did many years ago. After my fiancee broke the engagement, I politely asked for my .5 carat on 18 kt. ring back. After all - SHE had broken the engagement (never mind that there may have been reason). She promptly took my ring, laid in on her tile floor and smashed it with a claw hammer!! I didn't know that a diamond would pulverize into 'diamond'dust' like that! She handed me the crushed setting and slammed the door in my face. Some months later I gave the gold to a goldsmith and directed him to make me a pendant set formed as the baseplate to a mounted tigershark tooth. Made lemonaid with the lemon-rubble of my crushed engagement ring. :(

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