An engagement ring is a special symbol in our culture. It is traditionally given by a man to a woman to pledge his commitment to a woman. The woman wears it as an acceptance of the man’s proposal to marry.
Anthropoligists believe that the tradition of engagement rings originated from a Roman custom where wives attached their engagement rings to their keys, indicating a husband’s ownership of them. In 1947, this trend became pricier when the diamond company De Beers launched its campaign “A Diamond is Forever.” The campaign implied that a marriage had the same depth, sparkle and durability of a diamond. It was forever.
Fast forward to 2003, when the Texas Court of Appeals in Austin had to decide who should have ownership of the engagement ring when a man and a woman decided that they did not, after all wanted to be committed forever. After six weeks of being engaged, the man/proposer ended the engagement with claims that the woman/proposee had a volatile temper and sexual hang-ups. He demanded his diamond ring back, to which the proposee refused. Then ensued litigation and refined Texas law for engagement ring ownership.
The first thing a Texas court would consider is whether there is an agreement in writing as to the return of the ring. Texas Family Code requires all promises agreements made in consideration of marriage to be in writing and signed by the party that would be obligated by the promise or agreement. While unlikely, if the proposer and proposee have a contract for the return of the ring if they broke off the engagement, a Texas court would enforce such a contract.
Assuming there is no written contract (which really is likely), a Texas court would then consider who is at fault in breaking off the engagement. A party that is at fault in ending the engagement would have to lose the ring to the other party, because, after all, the other party was not the one defaulting on his/her commitment to marry.
So, in the 2003 case, the Court of Appeals held that the even though his reason for breaking off the engagement was the proposee’s alleged temper issues and sexual hang-ups, the proposer broke off the engagement while she stood on her commitment to marry. The proposer was thus, at fault, and the proposee had rightful ownership of the engagement ring. She could keep it, forever.
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Curtis v. Anderson, 106 S.W.3d 251 (Tex. App.—Austin 2003, pet. denied)