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What to Do With An Engagement Ring After a Divorce

Bottom Line

Determining what to do with your engagement ring after a divorce is ultimately your decision. Choose an option that brings you new energy and life—one that leaves you feeling positive about your future—whether that’s selling your ring through an online vendor like Abe Mor or repurposing it into another beautiful piece of jewelry.

Life has many twists and turns that we can never expect. If you find yourself with a ring you no longer need, we have some tips to help you through the process. You’re not alone, either. Many others are also wondering what to do with an engagement ring after a divorce. There are a few options available—and it’s all about choosing the one that’s right for you.  

In this guide we’ll cover who gets the engagement ring in a divorce, options for selling your diamond ring, and ideas for resetting your diamond should you want to keep it.

Who gets the engagement ring in a divorce?

Deciding who gets the ring can seem tricky. In most cases, the engagement ring belongs to the person who received it, but there are some exceptions. Here are a few guidelines that can help.

The engagement ring is a pre-marriage gift.

The law varies by state, but in most cases, the engagement ring is considered a pre-marriage gift—meaning the ring forever belongs to the person who received it. The ring remains as the receiver’s property in both the case of a divorce or a called-off engagement.

The engagement ring symbolizes a marriage promise.

In other states, the situation is similar but slightly different. The ring represents a promise of marriage. If the bride walks down the aisle and delivers on that promise, the ring is freely hers. The ring, then, isn’t subject to being returned in the case of a divorce. On the other hand, if she calls off the engagement, she must return the ring because she didn’t deliver on her marriage promise.

Exceptions may apply if the ring is a family heirloom.

If the ring is a family heirloom, it may need to be returned to the family from which it came (even if the law states that they wouldn’t get the ring back otherwise). For example, if he used his grandmother’s ring to propose, it might be returned to him, since you only received it because you were joining the family.

Exceptions may apply if the engagement gets called off.

If the couple never gets married, some courts look at which person is at fault. For instance, if he cheats during the engagement, the ring belongs to her. If she cheats, that’s a different story. A few courts, however, say that fault doesn’t matter. If the promise of marriage is not fulfilled, the ring is returned to the giver, even if they are the one to cheat or call off the wedding.

Outside of the law, you (and maybe your ex) have to decide what makes sense for your unique situation. Perhaps you feel you should return the ring because it’s a family heirloom or maybe you feel you should keep it due to hardship and heartbreak. Ultimately, choose the route that makes sense for you, but remember that in most cases, the receiver keeps the ring.

In divorce mediation we always have to deal with division of assets and who gets what but the diamond engagement ring and really any jewelry that was a product of the marriage is always a special case. The sentimental value and memories that come with the diamonds oftentimes can’t be quantified. I help the couples get to the heart of the matter by having honest discussions on their expectations and providing creative options for what to do with the jewels that will enable both parties to move forward in a healthy way.

Divorce Mediator Dori Shwirtz of DivorceHarmony.com

What to do with your engagement ring after a divorce

Rather than tucking your ring away in a drawer only to collect dust, you can use it to bring new energy into your life. Some people want to rid themselves of their ring altogether—making selling it the best option. Others want to keep at least some part of their ring (if you’re interested in this option, check our article about redesigning a ring after a divorce). Whatever you decide, look through your options before deciding on what’s best.

Sell your engagement ring after a divorce

Whether you want to cash in your ring for a getaway vacation or to start your own business, selling your ring can offer you some exciting new opportunities.

You may or may not know how much your ex spent on your ring, but it’s important to realize that your diamond’s resale value won’t be anywhere close to what was paid for it.

Here are the two biggest reasons you won’t receive the value of your ring’s original price:

  • Profit margin percentages were a part of your diamond’s original purchase price
  • There is no real consensus on what a diamond’s “market price” is

So while you won’t be able to recoup the entire amount spent on the ring, you can still get a good value, especially if you approach selling your diamond in the right way at the right place.

Where to sell your engagement ring

When it comes to selling your engagement ring after divorce, not all options are equal. In fact, there will be a huge disparity in the amount you receive depending on where you sell it.

If you walk into a brick and mortar store—perhaps similar to where your ex bought the diamond—you’re likely to receive a very low price. Here’s why: brick and mortar stores get diamonds for significantly less than what they sell them for. Stores get diamonds at wholesale prices from their suppliers on consignment—meaning they don’t have to buy a diamond until it sells. Therefore, a jewelry store will offer you a cheap price, because otherwise they’d just buy a similar diamond on better terms from a supplier. Jewelers also know that buying from you is a great opportunity to buy a diamond at well below the market price.

Pawn shop prices tend to be even worse, because they expect the diamond to sell for well below the market value. In order to make your ring worth their while, they need to purchase your diamond at an even lower price.

You could also try to sell your engagement ring directly to someone who wants it, although that approach comes with some risk—like whether or not you’ll receive a reliable payment. Selling your ring on a site like Craigslist or eBay will also probably not give you the market price, because consumers would rather go to a store or online jeweler to receive a new ring that comes with warranties.

Based on our years of experience, we’ve found that the best place to sell an engagement ring is online. In general, you can find better deals buying a diamond online and the retailers provide good options for returning, selling or upgrading. When you sell online, you retain more value for your ring, because their cost structure is much better than physical stores.

We’ve had a number of our readers sell their rings to a variety of online vendors, including White Pine, Worthy, and Abe Mor. The number of satisfied sellers who worked with Abe Mor was exponentially higher than with White Pine or Worthy. The difference was so pronounced that we don’t bother recommending either Worthy or White Pine anymore.

Here’s how Abe Mor works: they offer a secure shipping program that allows you to send in your diamond from anywhere in the world. Their experts examine your diamond. Then, they make you an offer (which you can either accept or deny). It’s very likely that Abe Mor’s offer will exceed the amount you’ll receive anywhere else. Their longstanding relationships with jewelry retailers gives them the inside scoop on market prices—translating to higher offers for you. You can read through our full Abe Mor review here.

You can sell your setting

Whether or not you decide to sell your diamond, know that you can just as easily sell your setting.

Your setting will be worth the scrap gold price. Even if your ex paid $4,050 for a custom setting like this one from James Allen, your ring will still be melted down to scrap gold. Why? Almost everyone wants a specific, unique design for their engagement ring. Rather than reusing your ring, a consumer would prefer their own design.

While it’s a financial loss to sell your ring for scrap gold, you’re at least able to recoup some of the cost. Most pawn shops and jewelry stores pay about 50 cents for every dollar of scrap gold value. For example, if the scrap value for your ring is $2,000, a store will probably offer to buy the ring for about $1,000. However, at Abe Mor, they offer 75 cents for every dollar of scrap value. So, in that example, you’d receive $1,500 for the $2,000 scrap gold value, instead of $1,000. And if you work through Abe Mor, they’ll handle the resale of your diamond and setting.

Repurpose or reset your engagement ring

Many choose the option of resetting an engagement ring after divorce, because they either absolutely love the diamond or want to hold onto some of the sentimental value of the marriage—such as the kids or adventures they had together. Some also plan to hand down their ring to a daughter or son for a future proposal. By resetting or gifting the ring, you can turn the difficulties of a separation into the joy of new beginnings.

If you want to keep enjoying your diamond’s beauty, you can melt down the setting and place the diamond in a new piece of jewelry—like a diamond pendant or cocktail ring. You could even give this new piece of jewelry to one of your children as a gift.

Many jewelers, such as Brian Gavin Diamonds and Blue Nile, make custom jewelry. They can incorporate whichever pieces of your engagement ring you like the most and create something just for you. The custom piece can be passed down for generations or simply symbolize your new independence.

About the author
Michael Fried
Mike learned the diamond business from the ground-up at Leo Schachter Diamonds - one of the world's top diamond manufacturers. He has been recognized as a diamond industry expert by Time, PeopleMoney, The Daily Mirror, NerdWallet, The Times Herald, Yahoo Finance Australia, The Art of Charm, The Washington Diplomat, The Next Web, and more.
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