I recently received a call from my friend's son. He was excited. He had met the girl of his dreams and he was about to take the big step and buy a ring. As he was planning on spending about $15,000, his Dad suggested that he call me, a Family Law attorney, to get "the legal low down" on engagement rings (i.e. who gets the ring if the couple ultimately does not get married).
Pennsylvania family law, treats the giving of an engagement ring as a conditional gift. A conditional gift is one that is given in contemplation of an event - marriage in this case. Conditional gifts only become the absolute property of the person receiving the gift if the event takes place. The mere acceptance of the marriage proposal is not the implied condition of the gift; so, if the individual accepts the ring, the person giving the gift is entitled to the return of the ring or its equal monetary value if the marriage does not take place. This is true even if the person giving the ring breaks the engagement. So, I told the young man to go ahead and buy the ring, to get down on his knee, and propose (preferably in front of as many people as possible.)