An engagement can be a happy time for many couples. Most engagements are accompanied by an engagement ring meant to symbolize the couple's intent to be married. However, sometimes engagements do not work out, and the couple decides to separate before the wedding takes place. If this happens, there is often confusion about who gets to keep the engagement ring.
States have taken different approaches to this situation. Pennsylvania has decided that an engagement ring is a conditional gift. This means that the ring was given on the condition that the marriage actually occurs. Because the marriage in these cases is not going to happen, the condition is not satisfied. In other words, the person who gave the ring should get the ring back if the couple decides not to go forward with the marriage. In Pennsylvania, it does not matter why the engagement is called off or whose fault it was. The only consideration is that the gift was conditional, and for whatever reason, that condition will not be satisfied.
However, there may be an exception to this rule in a few circumstances. If the engagement ring was given as an unconditional gift, the recipient may be allowed to keep the ring even if the engagement is called off. The most common example of this is where the engagement ring is given to the recipient for Christmas and is represented as a Christmas present. In this type of case, the ring may be seen as an unconditional gift that also happens to symbolize an engagement. An unconditional gift would not need to be returned if the engagement ends.
Sometimes when an engagement ends, the party who was given the ring may voluntarily return the ring to the other party. In other situations, the party who received the ring may refuse to return it, or even sell or destroy the ring. The party who gave the ring would be able to sue the other party for the return of the ring or the equivalent monetary value. However, if the party who gave the ring tells the other party to keep it after the engagement ends, then the ring becomes an unconditional gift, and the party who originally received the ring may keep it.