A Virginia man is breathing a sigh of relief after the court ruled that his ex-fiance must return the $26,000 engagement ring for the marriage that will never happen. The court ruled that the ring was aptly characterized as a conditional gift, which meant that if the marriage didn't take place, it would need to be returned. Since the marriage has been off for a few years now, the court ordered the ex-fiance to return the ring or pay the $26,000.
Despite marriage seeming like so much more, it really boils down to a financial agreement between two adults, akin to a business partnership. Engagement rings can be viewed as earnest money, or a security deposit, in a business venture. Sometimes it's refundable, sometimes it isn't. Generally, it boils down to how the ring is characterized at the time it is given, or maybe at the time of the breakup.