It doesn’t matter how you feel about your marriage or relationship with a long-term partner, divorce is rough on everyone involved in the process of separating.
You may have simply drifted apart, you may be fighting like cat and dog, but the fact is, you once loved each other fiercely enough to want to commit to each other regardless of what life threw at you.
Emotionally, giving up your wedding ring or engagement ring – or both – can often, simultaneously, be the hardest and easiest thing to do. On one hand, it can be easy because the decision to part has been made and there’s a desire and need to move on with your life.
But there’s no getting away from the fact that even in the most acrimonious of divorces, the rings you or your partner have worn every day are physical proof that there was a time when you felt very differently about each other.
Speaking as someone who has been through this, I can testify that things almost always get worse before they get better – but they do eventually get better.
Even so, the day the lady in the relationship decides to stop wearing her wedding and engagement ring is a sentinel moment and eventually you’ll both need to decide what happens to the valuable jewellery you each own, including the gold rings and the engagement ring, diamond or otherwise.
All that said, the law doesn’t take sides and what you might want to do with your personal jewellery has no bearing on what must be done in the eyes of the law. Obviously, where aren’t many items or the jewellery you own isn’t worth very much, these personal items are often excluded from the final settlement.
But rings, and especially diamond engagement rings, are often the biggest single purchase a couple will make after a house and a car – and their value as assets is substantial. In these cases, it’s not uncommon for conflict to lurk just around the corner and things can turn unpleasant.
Let’s deal with the specific issue of ownership of an engagement ring as far as the law is concerned.
The first point to make is that unless there was an agreement to give back the engagement ring if the wedding was cancelled then the recipient is under no obligation to return it. As you might expect, the reverse is also true: if there was a condition - whether expressed or implied - that the ring would be returned if the engagement was broken off, the recipient would have to give it back.
A court would generally say there was an implied intention that the ring would be returned if it was a family heirloom or had particular sentimental value - but even then, this would have to be proven.
These rules also apply to couples getting divorced. If there are no prenuptial agreements in place and the couple can't resolve the finances, it's possible to ask the court to adjudicate on the issue. But beware: the cost of litigation is high and should always be the last resort.
So what does happen when things have gone wrong and you find yourself in a position of having to dispose of your personal jewellery?
First of all, the paperwork that goes with the divorce proceedings includes a form called Form E which is a disclosure form for all the assets held jointly and individually. The form requires you to record what you have and what each article is worth.
Sometimes, couples find it impossible to reach an agreement on the value of an article and in these cases the court instructs each party to get an independent valuation from a jeweller.
Many couples make the mistake of believing this valuation is the same as an insurance valuation and is based on the replacement cost of the item. But that’s not the case. In a divorce, the true value of an asset is its resale value. In other words, if you had to sell it – and you might, if things go badly – what price would it realistically fetch?
If you buy a car for £35,000 and it’s stolen or written off in an accident, your insurance policy will give you a price to replace the car at that point, taking into account its age, condition and allowing for depreciation. The same is true with jewellery.
It’ll come as no surprise to know that each side may try to get the jewellery under- or over-valued, depending on whether the effect of the valuation is likely to be favourable or not to one side or the other, but no one in the jewellery trade will pay more for your jewellery than they would pay a supplier, so this is really what determines the correct ‘value’ of your articles.
I know as well as anyone how painful divorce can be and I understand it from both ends - so when someone comes to me for a divorce settlement valuation, I do everything I can to soothe the pain of the process of divorce.
If you would like any more information, or if you need a valuation done for your Form E, then please do get in touch. I don’t charge for a consultation, I only charge once you instruct me to act for you.
My role is to help ease you through the paperwork and ensure you both get the right value for your jewellery when the settlement is finalised.
Call us for a free consultation in our central London Hatton Garden office and we will be glad to try to help you. Our details are on the main page of the Lewis Malka London website.
Lewis Malka is a highly-regarded expert in making diamond rings as well as being a famous jeweller to the stars. He is a member of the London Diamond Bourse (LDB) and is currently the Chairman of the Young Persons Committee within the Diamond Bourse. You can follow him daily on Twitter and Instagram. If you would like any bespoke jewellery made, then please visit his website.