Jewellery and Marriage

Engagement rings are supposed to cost at least a months salary, so we are told.

But what if the engagement is broken off before the wedding? Who does the ring belong to?

The answer is to be found in s.3(2) of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1970 . This states that “the gift of an engagement ring shall be presumed to be an absolute gift; this presumption may be rebutted by proving that the ring was given on the condition, express or implied, that it should be returned if the marriage did not take place for any reason.”

This means that a lady should be cautious about throwing the ring back at her fiancé, who should, similarly, be quick to pick it up and pocket it.

If the ring has been in the family for generations it could be easy to imply that the gift was conditional, but it would spoil the moment if, on proposing, the conditional nature of the gift were made explicit.

The answer therefore is that usually, but not always, the engagement ring is owned by the lady.

In a divorce, the value of jewellery can be taken into account.  The value is always the resale value, which could be a lot less than the original purchase price. Insurance valuations are rarely useful.

Jewellery is more likely to be taken into account the greater its value, or the lesser the value of the other assets. £10,000 of jewellery may not make much of a difference to a £1m case, but if the other assets are only worth £10,000 it will make a great deal of difference.

Andrew Lee

Andrew is a Collaborative Family Lawyer, and a Senior Associate Solicitor at Gregory Abrams Davidson.  To contact: Tel 0151 236 5000/ 0151 330 0734: