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Ring Toss
Digital Journal has a piece about a woman who saw her engagement ring as a gift with which she could do as she pleased. A judge thought differently, seeing it as a "conditional gift":

Vicky Papathansoupouos was engaged to ex-fiancé Andrew Vacopoulos. He gave Vicky a $15,250 diamond engagement ring. After some time Vicky called off the wedding and told her father to dispose of the ring, with some photographs and mementos of their failed relationship, which he threw in the garbage. Andrew found out about the disposal of his wedding ring so he launched legal action in a Manly (not made up, it is in Australia) court for compensation.

...Justice Rex Smart said in the eyes of the law, Ms. Papathanasoupoulos was holding her ex-fiancé’s property.

"I do not accept (the) contention that once (Mr Vacopoulos) ... left the engagement ring on the table it became her property to keep or dispose of as she wished," Justice Smart said.

The court found that if a woman refuses without legal justification to marry her fiancé she cannot keep and must return any engagement ring.

By turning down the offer of marriage, Ms Papathanasopoulos had rejected the "conditional gift" of the ring, the court found.

Personally, I find the engagement ring tradition kind of icky, and redolent of both prostitution and women being seen as property. Also, if fiancé boy has to buy you a $15,000 pre-wedding rock, how come, if you consider yourself a man's equal, you don't have to buy him a boat?

Regarding this case and others like it, men do not just run around tossing diamond rings at women. I agree with the judge.

Posted by aalkon at November 7, 2007 3:38 PM


I agree that the engagement-ring tradition is just silly. Hello? Put that $15,000 toward your house fund or in trust for a college education for any spawn you might have.

I also agree with the judge that she should have returned the ring.

That said, had he broken it off with her, she should get to keep the ring. At that point HE was the one not keeping up his end of the deal.

The main thing that bugs me here is what a dumbass that chick was to have her dad just throw away a diamond ring.

I know there is the shock factor of getting dumped while thumbing through the latest issue of Modern Bride, but don't be hasty when it comes to something worth thousands of dollars.

Hello?!?!? Sell it and put it toward your own house fund. Or just sell it to fund a kick-ass vacation.

Posted by: Jill at November 7, 2007 9:50 AM

Vicky Papathansoupouos-Vacopoulos?

Posted by: eric at November 7, 2007 10:28 AM

It's common courtesy to return the ring if you (woman) break the engagement. If the man breaks the engagement, I think the woman should get to keep the ring as a kind of consolation prize, to do with as she wants. But it must be nice to have enough money that you can throw away a $15K ring! What a waste. I agree with the judge, too.

Posted by: Flynne at November 7, 2007 10:52 AM

I'd be willing to throw out the wild speculation that the ring got tossed somewhere in the vicinity of a jewelry appraiser. It's either that, or Daddy is a drooling moron. I mean, is anybody *that* sentimental?

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 7, 2007 10:56 AM

Eric posts what other men dare not pronounce.

Posted by: Crid at November 7, 2007 11:22 AM

I think that who broke off the engagement has nothing to do with who gets the ring. The question is why the person broke off the engagement. He catches her in a gang bang and brakes off the engagement should she still get the ring? She catches him going buck wild with her younger sister and the sisters college roommate, she ends the engagement should he get the ring back?

The simplest legal solution is the person who bought the ring (or whose family supplied the ring) should get it back. Straight forward and fair.

Posted by: vlad at November 7, 2007 12:01 PM

Yeah, there is no way the ring got tossed. She figured if she said she pitched the ring then she wouldn't have to give it back. Since she actually has to pay him for the ring anyone else thing it might miraculously show up?

Posted by: Scott at November 7, 2007 12:11 PM

People who give away and throw away diamond rings are different from you and I, they have more money. The judge should have sentenced all parties to push a wheelbarrow full of small bills up and down the street for a day. Or just mail it to me, whichever.

Posted by: martin at November 7, 2007 12:11 PM

I think the ring will show up too. Rich people are very careful with money, so I think that daddy probably has it in a safety deposit box somewhere, or maybe he sold it on ebay and kept the cash.

Posted by: Chrissy at November 7, 2007 12:27 PM

The whole diamond trade is a rip-off, anyway. Their value is propped up and may not always be, so I agree with Jill - sink that kind of money into a house, college, something USEFUL!

Posted by: Pirate Jo at November 7, 2007 12:31 PM

Absolutely right, Pirate Jo. I told Gregg early on that he should never feel compelled to buy me jewelry. I think fine jewelry is a silly expenditure, and I wear big glass and plastic necklaces and earrings. And I have quirky taste, so I'm pretty impossible to shop for unless you're a girl or showtunes gay. (Gregg thrills at buying me technobling instead. If it has a chip in it, and it's in my possession, it's usually from Gregg.)

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 7, 2007 1:00 PM

We skipped engagement entirely, bought each other wedding rings, and eloped. Since then, any jewelry purchase has been part of mutual holiday gifting. I buy her what she wants, she buys me what she wants. We constantly buy each other silly little gifts from time to time anyhow (she likes expensive dark chocolate).
She's a fairly practical-minded chick anyhow. She shops for discounts and at thrift stores.

Posted by: Jamie at November 7, 2007 1:15 PM

I'm a sucker for in your face, can't-miss-it, sparkling stuff. I wear a pair of (almost obnoxious) 3 carat "diamond" studs everyday (under $20) and they look great. Today, on my left hand I'm sporting some sort of canary "diamond," emerald cut, sterling silver setting. Huge. I'd probably go straight to the ocean floor. On the other hand a loverly Murano glass ring my mom brought home as a gift.

They don't call me GMoney for nothing.

As for wedding rings: if marriage happens for me I support the wearing of rings, b/c I'll be wearing a ring regardless so it might as well be meaningful and special.

And Amy - if he spends $15k on an engagement ring I'll buy him a new motorcycle (although, I'd argue I shouldn't spend $15k b/c my guy earns 2.5 times as much as I do, and has been working 6 years longer than I have). I am an equal opportunity engagement gift giver, with wage adjustments, of course.

Posted by: Gretchen at November 7, 2007 1:28 PM

I don't understand this: "That said, had he broken it off with her, she should get to keep the ring. At that point HE was the one not keeping up his end of the deal."

Uh, no. Vlad has it right. If the wedding is called off, the parties are returned to the same position they were in before the engagement. He gets the ring, regardless. Hurt feelings do not a legal claim make.

Posted by: snakeman99 at November 7, 2007 1:45 PM

I believe tradition says that the woman keeps it if she is jilted, and the man gets it if he is. I'd venture a guess that this stems from when a woman basically had to be married, and a man promising marriage and then running off could ruin her prospects and possibly her life.

Now, that's not really the case, but its still pretty clear that marriage is more important to women, and if they want kids, there is a bit of a shelf life on those eggs. Maybe the traditional penalty still applies for that reason? It probably prevents men from proposing to a girl they have no intention of ever marrying. Here's hoping you don't offer or accept that kind of commitment to someone you don't know well enough to determine whether they're likely to be an ass if it doesn't work out.

Personally, I think its purely symbolic and not terribly important. I'd probably rather have a down payment on a house and if I ever feel like I'm getting close to that point, I'd bring that up.

Posted by: christina at November 7, 2007 2:12 PM

$15,000 sounds like conspicuous consumption to me. I bought my ex a very nice ring for under $2000 which she still wears occasionally even 14 years after our divorce.

If I could've spend $15K I would've bought her a car.

Posted by: Darry at November 7, 2007 2:47 PM

"If I could've spend $15K I would've bought her a car."

If I could've spend $15K I would've bought me a car. Well, ok, most of a car. I'd let her ride in it, though.

Posted by: Steve Daniels at November 7, 2007 2:54 PM

Why is this a surprise or a big deal? Amy, how many times have you shown that men are hunters? The ring is merely big-game proxy, saying, "Here. I can provide for you."

So far as conspicuous comsumption goes, money in circulation gets used no matter how it gets there. Buy a house, a ring, fifteen really great lap dances, the economy does the same thing. The only thing you're doing differently is choosing what your role in the passage of money is.

I'm surprised I have to explain these things.

Posted by: Radwaste at November 7, 2007 3:11 PM

"The ring is merely big-game proxy, saying, "Here. I can provide for you.""

So true. Having recently purchased one, I can tell you my friends were much more interested in cost/size/quality than hers. Sick.

Posted by: snakeman99 at November 7, 2007 3:49 PM

Bf bought me a small, unassuming tanzanite ring, with diamond chips on either side, in a silver setting. It's all I wanted, I love it and will wear no other, except for a plain silver band, if/when we get hitched.

Posted by: Flynne at November 7, 2007 5:20 PM

I always thought the dowry was to go to the man for the woman's upkeep. $15K for a bobble? I think not. What kind of a dumbass drops that kind of jack to prove "Yes, Tonia, I really love you. So, oh so much that I'll spend our fucking house down payment so you can be all 'sparkly'"

What kind of a dumb, self centered bitch DEMANDS such a worthless, ostentatious display of total ass-hattery to prove she's "conquered" her man?

Dumbasses both. Pawn it for 40 bucks. That's obviously more than the relationship was worth...

Posted by: HerrMorgenholz at November 7, 2007 6:44 PM

For whatever it is worth, I have frequently used a metal detector to search the water beneath a nearby bridge. In accordance with local tradition, a new divorcée is expected to celebrate her freedom by a) getting rip roaring drunk and b)throwing her rings off the bridge. All I can say, is that every year the location is good for a wedding band or two along with the occasional engagement ring.

Posted by: Dave at November 7, 2007 8:29 PM

Another thing I apparently have to bring up: $15,000 is not the same thing to other people as it is to you. When affordable, it's no more outrageous than buying a better car.

Posted by: Radwaste at November 8, 2007 1:19 AM

I forgot to mention that great Zha-Zha Gabor line: "I never hated a man so much that I gave his diamonds back."

Posted by: Radwaste at November 8, 2007 1:24 AM

"$15,000 is not the same thing to other people as it is to you."

I think a good measure of wealth is the lowest figure it would take to get someone to stand in front of a judge, newspaper reporter poised nearby, and discuss the details of their love life; knowing those details would be gnawed on by...well, us.

Jewelers used to recommend x months salary but that's obviously pure salesmanship. They should recommend that men spend no more than they’d throw off a bridge. Once you’ve wowed someone with an extravagant gift, it is a sunk cost. Asking for its return is miserly and unbecoming. Truly rich people a willing to walk away from those appearances.

Posted by: martin at November 8, 2007 7:41 AM

Truly rich people a willing to walk away from those appearances.

Not true. People make a big deal over petty shit all the time just to be mean. I daresay this cuts across all socioeconomic strata.

Posted by: justin case at November 8, 2007 8:57 AM

I recommend a girl who, if she's into sparkly things, is wise to the bullshit of diamonds, and nudges the guy toward cubic zirconia. Men don't wake up one day inspired to show their love by buying a diamond. It's a marketing campaign, designed to guilt guys into the purchase.

Me? I look for a guy who shows his love by noticing when I'm shivering.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 8, 2007 9:07 AM

"They should recommend that men spend no more than they’d throw off a bridge. Once you’ve wowed someone with an extravagant gift, it is a sunk cost."

I find myself taken with Martin's argument here.

Make a splashily extravagant Gatsby gesture, if you like. But show class - and rip up the receipt.

Send a boomerang if you want an engagement gift to return to sender.

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at November 8, 2007 12:02 PM

What celebrity said "If you fall in love with a woman, what the hell, just buy her a house and walk away. You end up at the same place anyway, and it saves you alot of time". I think it was Mick Jagger....nuff said.

Posted by: Brian at November 8, 2007 2:40 PM

One of our local sports personalities said on the radio "All my wives have been great housekeepers. The first one kept the house, the second one kept the house....."

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at November 8, 2007 3:57 PM

Here's what I said in my column, "Holding On For Dear Wife":

According to your friend’s father, “it doesn’t matter who you marry.” Maybe it didn’t matter to him because he’s one of those guys who really just wants a tidy house, regular sex, and hot meals -- and he never figured out he could come close with carryout food, topless bars, and a cleaning lady.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 8, 2007 4:13 PM

"Me? I look for a guy who shows his love by noticing when I'm shivering."

Puh-leeze! You live in Cal-i-for-ni-a. Southern Cal-i-for-ni-a. So you might be twitching like that looking at some kind of eye candy. I do that when there's an MV Agusta or Desmosedici nearby. (Gregg must have a keen eye.)

Posted by: Radwaste at November 8, 2007 5:13 PM

I'm typically freezing. My doctor says it's because I'm thin. (I keep having my thyroid tested and it comes back normal.) It's the concept -- a guy who actually shows he cares about your welfare is what I mean. For example, Gregg came over with a roasted chicken and two salads and a wedge of Brie from Trader Joe's the other night. He knows I rarely make it to the grocery store. I just spend my day writing, and then I'm tired, and I live near a store I call "Ghetto Ralphs." Just hate it. I don't want diamonds, but without his delivery, I'd be down to my last can of Wolfgang Puck clam chowder tonight. The fact that he thinks about that, and cares enough to stop at TJ's on his way here, means a lot.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 8, 2007 6:52 PM

Screw feminism. Chivalry is still a wonderful thing and fun when you meet a woman who appreciates you looking out for her and caring for her.

Posted by: Brian at November 9, 2007 6:23 AM

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