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Don't call that an engagement ring

21 Oct 2013
Posted by Shannon

I was amused to see Salon magazine harden-up my views on the slick marketing of engagement rings and call the sparkly things "barbaric." That's not quite what I said.

I love sparkly things, and just to be clear here: I will turn down no gifts of jewellery, as long as the terms under which the baubles are given are entirely clear. 

And that's the rub, as Shakespeare would say. He also suggested that there's nothing in a name, and that's where he and I part company. Call a diamond ring an "engagement ring" and it comes with decades of social and legal baggage, courtesy of its social origins and the twaddle marketers are peddling. That just turns us all into potential litigants. 

Which is what happened in Vancouver, where a man was suing his ex-fiancee to recover the ring after she dumped him. They're a colourful couple, and their antics made international headlines. 

But for all the yammering about rings being tokens of love -- as opposed to what they really are, which is legal consideration in exchange for a promise -- it's worth noting that in the absence of a clear agreement between the parties regarding the ring, the courts tend to agree with me (and history). 

In the case of a man giving it to a woman in exchange for a promise to marry him, he is entitled to have the ring returned if she breaks it off. She is entitled to keep the ring if he breaks it off. In the event it's a mutual decision, the ring goes to him. 

As for those who claim that since marriage trends and customs are always changing, an "engagement ring" can mean whatever you want, I say that sort of sloppy thinking needs correcting via a basic philosophy course. If a couple wants to exchange engagement gifts, they should call it that: a gift. A celebration. A memento of a happy occasion.  

As the reams of court decisions can attest: that is most certainly not what an engagement ring represents.