Returning an Engagement Ring

Kate Miller-Wilson
Returning Engagement Ring

If you're not happy with your engagement jewelry purchase or you're breaking off your engagement, it's important to understand the process for returning a ring. No matter what reason you have for returning your ring, knowing how to do it properly can save you significant emotional and financial hardship.

Returning a Ring After a Broken Engagement

If you and your fiancé are calling off the engagement, many people feel that the ring should go back to the person who purchased it. There are a number of legal and emotional factors that need to be addressed in this situation.

Legal Requirements for Return

According to NOLO, whether or not you're required to return an engagement ring differs from state to state. In most locations, the courts consider an engagement ring to be a gift from one individual to another. However, unlike a birthday present or Valentine's Day bouquet, an engagement ring also comes with strings attached. Legally, this is called a conditional gift. That means that one person gives the gift to another with the understanding that the end result will be marriage.

The legal requirements are varied and complex:

  • In most states, the conditional gift status of an engagement ring usually means that the ring must be returned to the purchaser regardless of fault.
  • Some states make exceptions based on fault. In such a state, the person who caused the break-up may not be entitled to return of the ring.
  • In Montana, engagement rings are not considered conditional gifts, so they never have to be returned after a break-up.

Since the legal requirements vary by the state and specific situation, it's best to consult an attorney if you are unsure about whether you are obligated return the ring.

Etiquette Requirements for Return

While the law may or may not require you to return the ring, some people feel that proper etiquette dictates that you do give it back.

  • As early as 1922, renowned etiquette expert Emily Post stated that the ring, as well as any other valuable gifts given from one party to another, should be returned immediately following a broken engagement.
  • Modern etiquette maven Miss Manners is in agreement with Emily Post. She states that you should always return the ring, regardless of what the law says. According to her, one party's fault does not provide a reason to keep the ring.

Personal Preference

It is possible that the person who first proposed with the engagement ring may not want it returned. In that case, the person who bought the ring should give the recipient any remaining receipts or other documentation.

Managing the Emotional Factors

Returning a ring can be painful, since this piece of jewelry symbolizes your plans for a relationship with another person. While the breakup may be harsh or unpleasant, if you are going to return the ring it is important to do so civilly, to avoid further bitterness. Use these tips to help:

  • If you cannot bear one another's company or are not geographically near enough for a personal return, consider returning the ring by mail, FedEx or UPS. If you choose one of these methods, the ring should be carefully packaged and insured for protection. It is also a good idea to require a signature to verify delivery.
  • If you are returning the ring in person, it is important to do so without inflaming old arguments or leveling accusations that can make a bad breakup even worse. Don't linger over the exchange; instead, simply hand over the ring and be on your way.
  • Bring a friend or family member for support when you give the ring back. Returning the ring may be difficult and it can help to have a shoulder to lean on.
  • Do not ask a friend to act as a go-between if you and your ex-fiancé would prefer not to meet. This puts your friend in an uncomfortable position, and if something goes wrong with the ring hand-off, things can get complicated.
  • If the ring is a family heirloom, return it discreetly. Do not make the return in front of family members who may have questions or recriminations.

What to Include

Along with the ring, it's also helpful to include any accompanying paperwork and packaging that you may have. This can make it easier to return the ring to a jeweler or to sell it to another individual.

If you have these items, include them with the ring:

  • Receipts
  • Certificates
  • Maintenance records
  • Appraisals
  • Ring box

Returning an Engagement Ring to the Store

With engagement ring prices soaring to thousands of dollars, individuals or couples who no longer need an engagement ring may attempt to return it to the store for a refund. Depending on the store's policies and the amount of time that has passed since the purchase, this may be an easy process. Follow these steps to make the transaction as painless as possible.

1. Know the Store Policy

Before you begin the return process, it is crucial to be aware of the store's return policy. Many jewelers have relatively unforgiving return policies that may only be effective for a short period of time after the initial purchase. It's best to call the store and inquire about the policy and any exceptions that may be made.

2. Consider an Exchange

Many stores will consider an exchange, even if they won't provide a refund. Be sure to inquire about this possibility if the bride-to-be simply wants a different engagement ring design. If this is the case, you should attempt to exchange the ring as soon as possible.

3. Stick With the Same Location

If you purchased the ring from a chain store, it is best to try returning it to the exact store where you bought it. You may be able to work with the same salesperson, and this personal connection can help make the process go smoothly.

4. Keep All Documentation

When making this type of transaction, it's essential that you keep all receipts and return or exchange paperwork. You'll need these items if something goes wrong with the return or if you find that your money has not been refunded.

Returning a Ring You Bought Online

The Internet is a great resource when it comes to shopping for engagement rings, since it provides access to every style and material you can imagine. However, it also adds another layer of complication to the return process. In general, the process is the same as a brick and mortar store, but it helps to keep these tips in mind:

  • Look on the website for the return policy. Most stores clearly state this information on their company page.
  • If you aren't sure whether your return is possible, call a representative of the store. Because a return can be complicated and fraught with emotion, email isn't the best medium for this kind of transaction.
  • Tell the store you plan to leave feedback about your experience. Sites like WeddingBee and The Knot have message boards where you can tell other brides-to-be about your experiences with specific jewelers.

Return Alternatives

If an engagement ring cannot be returned, you can pursue several courses of action:

  • Reset or restyle the ring into a more appropriate design or other piece of jewelry such as a right hand ring.
  • Present an heirloom ring to the next most significant family member.
  • Consider selling the engagement ring to recoup some of its initial cost, either through an estate sale, pawn shop, consignment store or online auction.
  • Donate the ring to a charity for tax deduction purposes.

Knowing the Process Can Help

Returning an engagement ring is never a pleasant prospect, even if it does not accompany a broken engagement. Being aware of how to properly return a ring and what alternatives are available if returns are impossible can alleviate some of the stress associated with the situation.

Returning an Engagement Ring