What to Do With Wedding and Engagement Rings After Divorce

Should you sell your wedding ring?

Whether you are recently divorced or have held on to your ring for years, there comes a time when you look at the once-loved piece in your jewelry case and wonder what you should do with it. The ring that once brought joy may now evoke very different feelings.

For many, divorce can also be a renewal, and you can use your ring as a way to celebrate that renewal or treat your broken heart.

In this article we’ll give you some things that you may want to think about when deciding what to do with your wedding and engagement rings. The good news is that there is no right or wrong answer here – you should do what brings you the most joy.

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Throughout this article, we’re going to separate out wedding rings and engagement rings, as while you may view them as a ‘set’ of jewelry, they are viewed as very different within the jewelry trade.

First, we’ll get the legal stuff out of the way:

Who Owns a Wedding Ring After a Divorce?

Regardless of how long a marriage lasts, a wedding ring typically belongs to the wearer of the ring (the bride will keep hers, the groom will keep his).

There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as a prenuptial agreement or state laws that include wedding rings as joint property.

Who Owns an Engagement Ring After a Divorce?

Before a wedding, engagement rings are considered ‘conditional gifts’ in many states ie. they have been given under the understanding that a wedding will take place. In most states, if the relationship finishes before the wedding then the ring usually needs to be given back to the potential groom.

However, a marriage “completes the transaction” in the eyes of most governments, meaning that the ring now belongs to the bride, rather than the person who proposed.

While items given to each other within marriage are considered joint property, the engagement ring was given before the wedding took place and is often considered to belong to the bride after the wedding as non-marital property. You should still check with your divorce attorney to find out about the laws in your state, as rings are sometimes considered joint property from the marriage and will need to be divided.

Heirloom Engagement Rings After Divorce

Depending on the law of the state, heirloom rings often will fall under the same category and will belong to the bride after the wedding.

The exception is when the groom adds it to a prenuptial agreement to preserve the family’s rights to the ring. If no agreement was signed, the groom’s family may still be able to negotiate with the bride for the ring’s return.

Value of Wedding Rings vs Engagement Rings

Though wedding rings can hold a lot of treasured memories and have great sentimental value, when it comes to selling them the precious metal they contain is typically worth significantly less than people expect.

Most people don’t want to wear a used wedding ring as their own, so if you are considering selling your wedding ring, it’s best to get an independent jewelry appraisal conducted.

Typically, you will receive an offer between 50-75% of the gold or platinum’s overall value as it will need to be melted down, reforged into a new setting, and resold.

Even a wedding ring with diamonds set into it can be worth significantly less than the original purchase price. In order for the raw materials of the ring to be re-used in a new piece of jewelry, the diamonds will need to be removed which is a time-consuming and expensive process.

Engagement rings are often worth more due to the diamonds being larger, which means that they can be reused in a more valuable piece of jewelry. Sourcing a diamond appraisal is slightly different to a general appraisal as the appraiser’s experience and qualifications are more important – you want to ensure that they have received a qualification from a reputable diamond grading authority.

What to Do With Your Wedding Ring After a Divorce

Many people struggle with what they should do with their wedding rings after a divorce. A ring can hold a lot of sentimental value to some people, even if the marriage ended badly. Others will forget about it for years as they go about their day to day activities. There is no right or wrong answer to what you should do with your ring. It is yours and you should do what makes you happiest. 

Instead of keeping your ring in a drawer where it doesn’t bring you or anyone else joy, find a way to have it add value to your life.

In this section, we’ll look at a few ideas to get you started:

Should You Keep the Ring?

If you still love your ring and don’t want to part from it, keep it.

Some people even choose to wear their rings on their right hands like they would any other ring or put it on a chain to wear around their neck. Whether it is the good memories you cherish or you love the cut and design of the ring, you are free to keep it and use it if you want.

Save the Ring for Your Children

While some families are superstitious about a ring from a failed marriage, other families can see past the negativity and remember that there was initially a lot of love between the couple.

If your children are old enough, feel free to ask them about the ring and if they would have any interest in using it or owning it in the future.

Don’t take offence if they refuse the ring. To some children, the ring could be a symbol of their parent’s heartache while others can remember positive moments between you and your ex.

Give the Ring Back to Your Ex

If you had a prenuptial agreement or verbal agreement with your ex, you will need to legally give the ring back to them.

If you have an heirloom ring that belonged to his family, etiquette suggests that you should return it, even if the law doesn’t require you to do so. Even if you are at odds now, that ring holds a lot of sentimental value within that family that cannot be replaced.

Some people find it cathartic to just move on from a situation without any ties to it whatsoever. If you want to just cut ties with your ex and never think of him again, you may want to give it back. The clean break, especially if you feel pressured, may allow you to heal from the breakup much faster. That being said, if he is pressuring you to return the ring and doesn’t have a legal right to it, consider your options carefully if you still want the ring or wish to sell it yourself.

Repurpose the Ring

A good option for those who want to continue to enjoy the diamond on an engagement ring is to repurpose the ring.

A jeweler can melt down the setting and reuse the metal to create a custom diamond necklace or pendant that you can wear. While divorce is an ending in one way, it is also a transformation into a new beginning and repurposing your diamond can be a personal symbol of that.

If there are several diamonds or gemstones in your ring, you could split them into several pieces of jewelry to wear as a set or to hand down to your children.

Sell the Wedding Ring and Treat Yourself or Donate the Money

If you are sure that you don’t want your wedding ring and want it out of your life, selling it and using the money toward something that makes you happy is a great way to move on.

Many women have used the cash gained from their rings toward one of the following:

  • New pet
  • Upgraded vehicle
  • Vacation or cruise
  • Downpayment for a new house
  • Start of a new business
  • Further education (or college fund for your children)
  • Upgraded furniture or appliances

If possible, try and avoid using the money only toward bills or other every-day expenses.

Your ring was a symbol of something that was supposed to bring you happiness. Try to invest it in something that will bring you joy or pleasant memories.

If you don’t need the money or a special treat, consider donating your proceeds toward your favorite charity. There are often local charities designed to help other women who are getting out of difficult relationships. Investing in any cause to make the world a better place is a good way to say farewell to a personal trial.

Where to Sell Your Wedding and Engagement Rings for the Most Cash

If you do decide to sell your engagement ring, to avoid disappointment it’s important to understand that it is unlikely that you’ll be able to sell your rings for their original price.

Not only are your rings worn, but in order for a jeweler who is buying them to make a profit, they must purchase items for less than they can resell them for. On top of that, two rings purchased at the same retail price may have different resell values based on what influenced the initial price.

selling jewelry preview

For example, the diamond of your ring will typically bring in more than the metal in the setting.

If a greater percentage of the value of the original ring was toward a higher-quality diamond, you will get more for reselling your ring than someone who spent a considerable amount on a custom setting and less on the diamond. Even if both rings cost the same initially, the ring with the better diamond will maintain more financial value.

Look into several options before you make the decision on where to sell your ring as prices will vary. We conducted our own study on where to sell an engagement ring for the most money. After reaching out to six different companies with the same ring, we found that you can typically get a better return when working with a diamond broker. When it came to our ring, they offered us between $2,300 – $2,500 as opposed to a pawnbroker who offered us between $1,200 – $1,400.

To sum it all up

It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to what you should do with your ring. It is a personal decision and you should find the best way to turn it into something that makes you happy.