Engagement Rings

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So, Darren and I are engaged, and when we talked about it, we sort of joked about how he didn’t have a ring “to make it official.” But I felt that I didn’t want or need a ring; it seems to me that engagement rings are a sort of bribe: “If you agree to marry me, you get to keep this lovely ring. If you say no, I’ll be giving it to someone else.” Okay, so maybe that’s a little jaded, but how else can this action be interpreted? It’s bribery, if you ask me!

Now, if the man asks first and gives a ring later, that is better. That’s not a bribe, it’s more of a gift. Speaking of gifts, you should see what Wikipedia has to say in the engagement rings section (“Refusing the Gift” subsection):

Women traditionally refuse offers of marriage by refusing to take the offered engagement ring. In some states of the United States, engagement rings are considered “conditional gifts” under the legal rules of property. This is an exception to the general rule that gifts cannot be revoked once properly given. See, for example, the case of Meyer v. Mitnick, 625 N.W.2d 136 (Michigan, 2001), whose ruling found the following reasoning persuasive: “the so-called ‘modern trend’ holds that because an engagement ring is an inherently conditional gift, once the engagement has been broken, the ring should be returned to the donor. Thus, the question of who broke the engagement and why, or who was ‘at fault,’ is irrelevant. This is the no-fault line of cases.”

A monster ring - I found this on the DeBeers webpage, worth $13,800. And it's NOT the most expensive one on the page! {gasp!}

One case in New South Wales, Australia ended in the man suing his former fiancée because she threw the ring in the trash after telling her she could keep it despite the marriage proposal failing. The Supreme Court of New South Wales held that despite what the man said, the ring remained a conditional gift (partly because his saying that she could keep it was partly due to his desire to salvage the relationship) and she was ordered to pay him its AUD$15,250 cost.[4]

Tradition generally holds that if the betrothal fails because the man himself breaks off the engagement, the woman is not obliged to return the ring. Legally, this condition can be subject to either a modified or a strict fault rule. Under the former, the fiancé can demand the return of the ring unless he breaks the engagement. Under the latter, the fiancé is entitled to the return unless his actions caused the breakup of the relationship, the same as the traditional approach. However, a no-fault rule is being advanced in some jurisdictions, under which the fiancé is always entitled to the return of the ring. The ring only becomes the property of the woman when marriage occurs. An unconditional gift approach is another possibility, wherein the ring is always treated as a gift, to be kept by the fiancée whether or not the relationship progresses to marriage. Recent court rulings have determined that the date in which the ring was offered can determine the condition of the gift. e.g. Valentine’s Day and Christmas are nationally recognized as gift giving holidays. A ring offered in the form of a Christmas present will likely remain the personal property of the recipient in the event of a break up.[5]

In the United Kingdom, the gift of an engagement ring is presumed to be an absolute gift to the fiancée. This presumption may be rebutted however by proving that the ring was given on condition (express or implied) that it must be returned if the marriage did not take place, for whatever reason. This was decided in the case Jacobs v Davis [1917] 2 KB 532.

And you wondered why I was feeling jaded! Gads. All that talk of property, rings being returned… it just reinforces the materialism of the tradition. Speaking of tradition, from Wisegeek, I found the origin of engagement ring giving:

The tradition of engagement rings as we currently know it arose in the medieval era, when, in 1215, Pope Innocent III instituted a mandatory waiting period from engagement to marriage. For the first few hundred years in the tradition of engagement rings, only the wealthiest nobles could afford precious stones for their rings, and most engagement rings were simple metal bands. Plain bands are still worn as engagement rings by both men and women in many countries, including Denmark, Germany, and Sweden….

In modern day England and the United States, among other countries, the most common type of engagement ring is a diamond solitaire. This tradition of engagement rings is largely due to an advertising campaign by De Beers in the 1940s. In some countries, such as France, other precious stones are commonly seen in engagement rings. One tradition of engagement rings calls for the ring to be expensive as a symbol of the man’s commitment, and many engagement rings are truly impressive.

Aha! Rings as an advertising campaign! I shouldn’t be surprised! So, engagement rings are just a status symbol, created to keep the jewelers in business. Think of the stereotypical people who want to see the ring and how big the diamond is! As if a larger stone is going to make the man a better husband. Why don’t people ask “does he treat you good? Does he ever put you down or try control you?” Those things are far more important than the size of a diamond.

I guess I can understand a ring given as a token of love or a promise throughout a long engagement. My great-grandfather made a wedding ring for my great-grandmother from a coin. He punched out the center, sanded and smoothed it, and that was her ring. Isn’t that sweet? They had no money and so that’s what he did. That kind of ring, I’d be proud to wear!

Overall, I’m glad I decided not to have an engagement ring! Now, I just have to decide if I’m going to change my name.  {sigh}  🙂


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