The law in most states (not all, but most) is that the wife gets to keep the engagement ring and wedding ring after divorce. In some cases the rings (particularly the engagement ring) can be quite valuable. Occasionally, particularly for young couples, the ring will be the largest asset of the marriage, because it’s rarely encumbered by debt. So it’s not at all unusual for the wife to end up after divorce with a valuable engagement ring and/or wedding ring and be uncertain about what to do with it. Here are some of the solutions I hear about:
Divorce is a messy, draining experience, and it creates a time of crisis for everyone who goes through it. Crisis is almost never the best time to make an important decision. So maybe you’re not ready to make the call right now. You just want to put the ring in a safe place and forget about it for 2-3 years, and then maybe you’ll be able to deal more rationally with it.
The disadvantage of the Do Nothing strategy is that there is some risk of your losing it, so you need to be careful to make sure you pick a truly safe place, and make sure you backstop your memory (you’re in crisis, remember?) by writing down the location or sharing it with a trusted friend. Another disadvantage of Do Nothing is that the ring won’t do you or anyone else any good in storage, so you shouldn’t leave it put up forever. It may not hold pleasant memories for you, but it could bring great happiness to someone else.
The advantage of the Do Nothing strategy is the one you already know. Because it allows you to wait a while to make your decision, it allows you to put off that decision until you are no longer in crisis. And even if you were not in crisis, slow decisions are usually better than fast ones.
One other thing, don’t keep the ring expecting it to grow in value. One of the dirty little secrets about diamonds is that they’re notoriously poor investments. The De Beers diamond cartel has been spectacularly successful keeping the price of diamonds propped up far beyond any level supported by traditional laws of supply and demand, but diamond prices sure aren’t going up. If anything, they’re declining slightly.
Every good soap opera (and many a mediocre one) features one or more opportunities for the jilted wife to take off her engagement and wedding rings and fling them angrily at her husband. I don’t deny that ring-tossing is a common form of spleen-venting, but it’s rarely a good idea for wives.
First, it’s generally not good for rings to throw them around – they’re not built for that kind of punishment. Second, as I said above, the law in most states gives the engagement ring to the wife. And because it’s valuable, it’s rarely a good idea to take it off the negotiating table so early. There certainly are times when the husband should end up keeping the ring, mainly those in which the ring was the husband’s family heirloom before he gave it to the wife. Very few wives in these cases would begrudge their husband’s desire (and that of his family) to get the ring back if the marriage is ending. Even then, however, if you’re going to return the engagement ring, there’s nothing wrong with your asking to be compensated for it with other property or payment of marital debts.
Wives often finish a divorce under financial stress, paying more than they can afford for mortgage or rent, car payment, and debt payments. So who can criticize your taking that ring to a jeweler or pawn shop and converting it to cash? I certainly won’t. The price you get for it will be sharply discounted from what your husband (or you and your husband) paid for it, but it will certainly fetch a price. And if pawning the ring makes the difference in your being able to keep the house or some other useful asset, it’s probably a no-brainer.
If you’re going to sell your ring, you should know something about the quality of the stone and the setting. Don’t be afraid to consult several jewelers and pawn shops until you find the person who will shoot straight with you and offer you a firm price. And my inclination would be to steer clear of jewelers who want to take your ring on consignment. You’re trying to raise cash, not get into the jewelry business. If this person isn’t able to offer you a firm price, go down the street and find the one who is.
If you and your ex-husband have a daughter together, this is a no-brainer. If at all possible, you want to save the ring and give it to her. Even though the ring has icky memories for you right now, trust me on this, your daughter will cherish it when she gets older, because it will be a beautiful connection to both her Mom and her Dad. She won’t wear it like an engagement ring – she may have it made into a pendant, for example – but she will be proud of it and grateful to you.
I don’t have the same feeling about your son. The most likely use he would have for it would be to give it to his fiancé. It may be beautiful, and the price is right, but honestly, what bride wants to wear a loser ring? (I know that sounds harsh, but I know the way brides think.) No, if your only child is a boy, I’d go with one of the options above.
If you’ve read this far, you’re smart enough not to do this, but I have to say it anyway. You can pitch that ring, giving up its value in a pique of anger, or depression, or twisted desire to “put this whole mess” behind you. Or better still, you can spend money to throw it away and buy a coffin for your ring. Yeah, you read that right. Hey, as long as there are idiots, there will be people glad to sell things to idiots.
Your favorite movie notwithstanding, only a fool would throw a valuable diamond ring away. It’s not romantic, or evidence of your purity, or the last noble statement of farewell for a painful chapter of your life. It’s just a mistake. If you’re bound and determined to pitch that ring, don’t just throw it away. Take advantage of the Divorceinfo.com No-Cost Ring Disposal Service. Place it in a #10 envelope (heck, any envelope, I’m not particular), and mail it to me. I’ll make you a romantic videotape of me throwing it off the dam into the pond at our farm, and I’ll make sure the tape doesn’t show that my beloved is waiting to catch it and save it for our daughter.