I’m 62 and getting married for the third time. I bought my next wife a beautiful $7,000 diamond engagement ring. Do you think it would be OK to ask her to pass it on to my daughter after she passes?
Engaged to be Married
Nothing says I love you like, “P.S. When you pass, I’d like you to pass this on to my daughter.” Or, “I’ve had two wives already, and I’ve lost two rings to posterity. My daughter deserves this one.” Or how about, “Since we’re getting married and planning to spend the rest of our lives together, let’s talk about what happens to this $7,000 chunk of change on your finger after you die. It seems like a shame to take it with you and, if you were cremated, they’d have to remove it anyway. So I have a plan to keep this diamond in the family. Hear me out before you open the ring box…”
Nothing says I love you like, ‘Let’s talk about what happens to this $7,000 chunk of change on your finger after you die.’
OK, I’m clearly taking your request to the extreme, but it speaks to my point that it’s probably not a good idea to bring up the subject of your fiancée’s untimely death when you give her an engagement ring. She should have at least 5 minutes to indulge in some dream time and imagine your life together, and how romantic it will be before you bring her back down to earth with a request that essentially says you’re giving her the right to wear this ring for her lifetime, but after that it goes to your daughter because you did, after all, spend $7,000 on it.
If you don’t feel comfortable giving her this engagement ring outright, you should probably (a) give her something else for your engagement (maybe a vacation in some amazing place) or (b) remain single. Don’t give her a ring with conditions attached. That effectively puts finance ahead of romance. While it’s always a good idea to map out your financial goals before you get married and discuss housing and even a prenuptial agreement if one of you brings more assets into the relationship, an engagement ring should be exempt from that.
Don’t give your fiancée a ring with conditions attached. That effectively puts finance ahead of romance.
There is some precedent for treating engagement rings as an ATM machine, however. Nearly one-in-four millennials said they would have no problem selling their engagement ring to pay for a house or college, according to a 2016 survey released by WP Diamonds, a company that specializes in the recycling of diamonds. Less than one-quarter of older generations feel the same way. This tallies with a slew of studies that conclude young Americans value experiences over stuff. They don’t feel tied by the same social conventions as their parents or even older siblings.
Extravagant diamond rings are a relatively recent phenomenon. Men spend an average of $6,351 on an engagement ring, up 25% in six years, according to a 2017 survey of 14,000 U.S. adults who are engaged or recently married and use the wedding website The Knot. The social expectation for engagement rings was actually created by jewelry and diamond companies in the first half of the 20th century, and it later became a tradition in movies. Giving a diamond ring to mark an engagement goes back to the “A Diamond is Forever” campaign by the DeBeers diamond company, which trademarked the sentiment. It was written by copywriter Frances Gerety in 1947.
In some states, the gift of an engagement ring only becomes complete after you say, ‘I do,’ at the wedding ceremony.
You’re also not the only one to see a diamond ring as a gift that comes with strings attached. Last year, a young lawyer in D.C. sued his fiancée for the $100,000 4.06-carat engagement ring he gave her. He called it a “conditional gift.” (Family law varies by state, but in New York City and Washington, D.C. the gift of an engagement ring only becomes complete at the wedding ceremony.) It’s extremely generous of you to buy a $7,000 ring, but only spend an amount that would enable you to give an unconditional gift. That way, your third wife will never have to wonder if it will be pulled off her finger and quietly handed over to your daughter after she dies.
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