Who Wants My Engagement Ring? Not Me!

After a divorce, you can sell your engagement ring, repurpose it, or keep it to hand down to your children.  Or you can toss it off a bridge.  You may not want to hear this but there is no “right” decision.  It all comes down to the circumstances of your divorce and what feels right for you.

Is it yours to keep?

First let’s tackle the legal issues.   An engagement ring or wedding ring is a promise of marriage; once the marriage occurs the promise is fulfilled and the ring is typically seen as a gift from one party to the other.  In general, a recipient of a gift is not bound to return it, even if the relationship ends.   The rules on gifts between spouses during the marriage is less clear therefore redesigned or upgraded engagement rings can come into play when dividing assets.  When in doubt consult with an attorney before you sell or otherwise dispose of your ring.

Maybe it wasn’t all that bad.

For some their engagement ring is associated with the “good” that came out of their marriage whether it is children or years of happiness before the divorce.  Initially there may be no intent to pass it down to children but instead they keep it as a bittersweet reminder of the joy and pain experienced in the marriage.  If you feel this way you may want to put your ring in a safety deposit box for safekeeping.  An engagement ring is a prime target for thieves to steal during a break-in and there are many stories about the karma of losing a ring by theft.  While you may end up feeling relieved or unemotional about the loss, putting the ring in a home safe or safety deposit box allows you maintain control over the outcome.  That way when the time comes and you know what you want to do with the ring, you can benefit from the emotional or financial payoff.

Regardless of your feelings, if the engagement ring is a family heirloom consider keeping it for your children, giving it back to your ex or the originator of the gift, or if it is from your family and you cannot handle the emotional baggage of the ring consider selling or giving it to other family members who will appreciate it.

It just so happens that I am the beneficiary of an engagement ring handed down from a broken marriage.  My mother-in-law’s engagement ring was handed down from her mother-in-law.  After the divorce, she chose to keep it instead of sell it.  She recently gave it to my husband and he repurposed it into a pendant necklace for our wedding anniversary.  She loves seeing me wear it and I will hand it down to one of my daughters when the time comes.  In this case keeping the diamond was probably the right thing to do.  You never know when you will be ready to let go.  My mother-in-law had been divorced over 30 years when she handed it down.  If you can handle the emotional baggage of the ring and there is some family history involved you may want to consider holding on to it.

Letting go of the old makes room for the new.

My friend Natalie chose to sell her engagement ring.  The divorce was about as bad as you could get.  They had both spent all of their savings on attorney’s fees and all that was left was scorched earth.  The money from the ring allowed her to buy a much needed new car.  Does she regret it?  Not for an instant.  If you and your ex are on good terms consider spending the money on something that benefits both of you like sending the kids to summer camp or a multi-generational vacation.  Anything that brings a smile to your face is worth it.

Many women find themselves in a new relationship soon after selling their ring.  Whether you attribute that to kismet or the actual clearing of an emotional barrier depends on your world view.  Either way ridding yourself of a symbol of both the pain and joy of your past can be uplifting and help you focus on your future.

You’re ready.  Now what?

Unlike gold, diamonds do not have a market value on an exchange so price among buyers vary greatly.  The most important thing to do is shop around for the best price.  Whatever you do, don’t take the first offer.  So what is the best way to sell it?  According to The DeBeers Company, the highest prices on average can be obtained through (1) friends and family, (2) auctioneers, (3) classified ads, and (4) the store where the ring was originally purchased.  The bottom line is that you have two options:  sell to an individual or sell to a business in the jewelry industry.

Convenience is the main advantage of selling your ring to someone in the jewelry industry but you are going to pay for it in price.  If you don’t know the store where your ring was originally purchased you may want to start by taking your ring to at least three local jewelry or pawn shops to get an idea of what your ring is worth.  During this process some jewelry stores may offer to sell your ring on consignment.  Consignment can be a lengthy process taking months or even years, with no guaranteed sale.  However, you might want to consider it if you want to retain control over the selling process with minimal effort on your part.

It also helps to look at completed sales on EBay of similar rings to see what your ring might be worth if you sell it to an individual.  Once you have a better idea of your ring’s market value you will have the information you need to determine whether it is worth the time and effort to try and sell your ring to a buyer directly, sell it through a service or accept one of the offers from local or national jewelry businesses.

If you can’t bring yourself to do the legwork, or if you are willing to do more after getting local quotes, another option is a full service on-line auction or national resell business.  The International Institute of Diamond Valuation, part of the DeBeers Company, buys diamonds after appraising them on-line or in one of over forty approved jewelry stores nationwide.  If you choose sell on-line you will be asked to fill out a submission form, ship your ring using a provided FedEx shipping label, and within one day after receipt of the package an email with a market price quote will sent to you.  If you reject the offer the ring will be returned within 5 business days.  If you accept the offer payment will be made in 3-7 business days.  If you are close to one of their approved jewelers you can bring your ring in for an evaluation.  Based on this evaluation, the International Institute of Diamond Valuation will provide a market price quote within one hour.  If you accept the quote, the jeweler will write you a check then and there.  Another on-line buyer, WP Diamonds, purchases rings through a similar process.  You can make an appointment in their New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago or Dallas office for instant appraisal and sale.

Worthy and I Do Now I Don’t are two popular on-line sites for jewelry but each offers a different selling process.   Worthy is an on-line auction site that has you submit a description and image of the ring and based on that information provides you with an initial market value analysis. If you are satisfied with the analysis you then ship your ring to Worthy using a pre-paid, FedEx-insured shipping label to their facilities.  Worthy then cleans and photographs the ring before having it evaluated by a grading partner.  Then you and your account manager set a reserve price while prospective buyers are sent an alert on the item about to be auctioned.  The auction typically lasts five days and upon acceptance of the highest bid above your reserve amount, the payment is processed and funds are transmitted to you.  Worthy charges a percentage based on the final sale price that ranges from 5% to 20%.

If you already have a good idea of what you want to sell your ring for I Do Now I Don’t may be a good option.  Like eBay, the site allows sellers to list diamond jewelry with pictures and descriptions.  If you are not sure what price to list your ring for, you can request a suggested listed price or an immediate offer from them.  You pay 15% commission on the sale price only if the item is sold.  If the item does not sell during the 30 day marketplace cycle, you can re-list your item free of charge.  Potential buyers have the ability to negotiate with you on price and once you agree to a sale, both the ring and money are sent to the site.  The money is then held in escrow while a certified, independent gemologist authenticates and appraises the diamond.  Once that process is complete the ring is shipped to the buyer and a check is sent to the seller.

Both Worthy and I Do Now I Don’t are geared towards rings worth $1,000 or more in value.   If your ring is more modest in value, mail-in services like CashforGoldUSA and CashforDiamondsUSA and local pawn ships are options.  EBay is also a good alternative for rings valued below $1,000 and for DIY lovers.

EBay is a fast and convenient option that allows you to sell your ring without the cost or hassle of an appraisal.  And because EBay is the world’s largest on-line auction you will expose your listing to millions of potential buyers.  Most listings are free or for a minimal fee on EBay.  You will be charged 10% of the total amount of the purchase price upon completion of the sale with a maximum fee of $750.  There also a few are hidden fees you need to consider including additional fees for setting a reserve price, which is discussed briefly in the paragraph below, and the 3% fee charged by PayPal if you use them to collect the sale proceeds.  Additionally, you are responsible for shipping and insuring your item and unlike the specialty auction sites for jewelry there are not as many safeguards for buyers and sellers so do your research before listing your ring if you do not have experience selling on EBay.  If you are a first time seller, consider selling an item of lesser or minimal value first to familiarize yourself with the process and lessen the chance of a mistake later on.

If you do decide to sell on EBay there are a few things you can do to improve your listing.  First, have the ring cleaned. Some jewelers will even do this for you for free and this will help with step number two which is to take good quality photos of your ring.  If you have a good quality diamond, its refraction can make a good photo difficult in certain lighting with a phone camera.  Photograph it in different lights and from different angles to ensure you are capturing its sparkle.  Third, set a reasonable price.  Sellers often think something they are attached to is worth more than its true market value.  So be sure to do a reality check with friends before you decide the price.  As with any item, check out prices for diamond rings like yours and be as specific as possible (e.g. carat, clarity, cut).  If you’re listing the ring auction-style and are not willing to sell it lower than a certain price, make sure you set a reserve price, even if it costs extra.  It will save you a lot of grief later.  And finally, share your listing everywhere.  This one seems obvious, but a lot of people don’t share their posting and wonder why they’re not attracting as much attention.  Once you’ve posted the item, be sure you share your listing in communities that allow external links and on Facebook and other social media outlets.

A classified ad, such as what you would place on Craigslist or a local newspaper, is another option for reaching potential buyers.  However, vetting buyers can be time consuming and more importantly, you may not be working with reputable professionals.  If you choose this route be wary of meeting with individuals and the payment process.

If you don’t need the cash, some national and local jewelry stores register their stones and will offer you a credit at their store upon repurchase.  Even if you didn’t purchase your ring at their store many national jewelers including Jared and Key have store credit buy back options.  So if you plan on purchasing other pieces of jewelry with the proceeds of the sale this can be a good deal since the amount offered as a store credit is often substantially higher than a cash price.

Don’t look back.

While your engagement ring at one time represented something important to you, it is only a material symbol of your marriage.  Your peace of mind is more important.  Whatever you decide, even if you decide to throw it off a bridge, don’t let it bring you down.   There is no universal right answer, only individual ones.

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