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After a marriage (or engagement) ends, what do you do with the ring?

Sell it, repurpose it, melt it down? Here's what different women have done with their wedding jewelry after divorce.
Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande
Should Ariana Grande have to return the ring?Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Jordana Horn was cleaning out her desk recently when she found a surprise buried in the back of a drawer: her wedding band from a previous marriage.

Horn, a TODAY Parents contributor, divorced her first husband nearly a decade ago and has since remarried, so she hadn’t thought about this old ring for a while. Still, the platinum band represented an important chapter in her life and she didn’t want to just leave it collecting dust.

“It was clearly something that meant something more at one point, so I definitely wanted to do something that was meaningful,” Horn, 44, told TODAY Style.

Horn asked her friends on Facebook what she should do with the ring, and people came back with a range of ideas. Some people suggested selling it, as Horn had done with her engagement ring years earlier. Others suggested melting the ring down and making something special for her sons from her previous marriage.

One person even suggested making her kids matching nose rings from the metal, “which, while a creative idea, did not particularly appeal to me on many levels,” Horn said with laugh.

What to do with wedding rings after divorce?
Jordana Horn's platinum wedding band from her previous marriage had been buried in a drawer for nearly 10 years.Courtesy Jordana Horn

Others suggested tossing the ring, but that didn’t feel right, either.

“There’s the drama of the cinematic gesture of throwing it into the ocean or something,” Horn said. “But really, the divorce was more than enough drama for me.”

Eventually, she decided to sell the ring and donate the money to the Rachel Coalition, a nonprofit that helps people affected by domestic violence.

“I really liked the idea of ... paying it forward and doing something constructive with it,” she said.

Horn’s story raises a question that many people face after divorce: What should you do with your wedding jewelry after a marriage ends?

When it comes to etiquette, there are no established rules for dealing with rings following a split, says etiquette guru Lizzie Post, a spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute and host of the Awesome Etiquette podcast.

However, some common decency should apply when it comes to heirloom jewelry, Post says.

“If the ring was an heirloom, it’s very nice for the person who received it to give it back the family they’re no longer a part of, or at least asking if they’d like the ring returned to them,” Post, who is also the great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post, told TODAY Style. “Just because that was something that was being passed down through a family, and you’re not included in the family anymore.”

Post notes that in the case of a broken engagement, state laws vary as to who is legally entitled to keep the ring.

After divorce, however, the decision typically comes down to personal preference, she says. If the marriage ended relatively amicably, some people do choose to wear their wedding ring or engagement ring on the right hand, as a reminder of their continued friendship with their ex.

But most people “don’t want a ring on them as a symbol of a marriage that didn’t last,” Post said. “So, most people have a tendency to sell the ring, to give it away, to give it back, or to have it turned into something else. And all options are totally OK.”

Repurposing your old rings is an especially popular option among divorced women.

Calla Gold, a personal jeweler in Santa Barbara, California, has helped countless clients transform their “divorce diamonds” into new pieces. While some women opt to make a new ring using their old stones, many clients want a more drastic overhaul.

“Oftentimes, people feel like that diamond is charged enough with the memory of … the loss of the marriage, that they don’t necessarily want to put it on their finger,” Gold told TODAY Style. “So a lot of times what they’ll do is make a necklace out of it.”

Gold used one woman's engagement diamond as the centerpiece of a new, vintage-style marquis necklace.

What to do with wedding rings after divorce?
Jeweler Calla Gold transformed a traditional engagement ring to make a vintage-style necklace. Courtesy Calla Gold/ Calla Gold Jewelry

Repurposing an engagement ring or wedding band can be an opportunity for a woman to reclaim her personal style and individuality following a divorce, Gold says.

“Occasionally I’ll run into a woman and she’s been married since she was 20 or something, and her husband has always bought her jewelry,” she said. “And now he’s out of the picture and ... they’re kind of like, ‘Well, I don’t know what I like. I’ve never bought jewelry for myself.’ … So in some cases, we are discovering someone’s taste together. It can be cathartic.”

Gold worked with one divorced client to transform her old wedding set into a pair of pendant earrings.

What to do with wedding rings after divorce?
Calla Gold transformed one woman's wedding ring set to a pair of diamond pendant earrings.Courtesy Calla Gold/ Calla Gold Jewelry

Of course, if a marriage has really gone down flames, there’s nothing quite so cathartic as casting your wedding ring into a fire — and Gold can help with that, too. She recalled one client who salvaged her engagement diamond but wanted the leftover band to burn ... literally.

“She said, ‘I want to see the flame, I want to see it melt,’” Gold said. “When it was just a puddle of useless nothing, I took that final picture and I sent it off to her and she was like, ‘I’m free!’”

No matter what you decide to do with your wedding ring, it’s an emotionally charged choice. That’s one reason Horn recommends not making any hasty decisions about your rings after a divorce.

“I would recommend to most people waiting,” she told TODAY Style. “There are so many things that are fraught with so much pain and emotion when you’re going through a divorce, that you don’t need to serve up any more.”

Horn said there was a “certain sadness” in finally selling her old wedding band, but because so much time had passed, “it was an abstract sadness rather than an extra-kick-in-the-teeth sadness.”

In any case, watching the jeweler weigh the ring as she sold it was a moving experience.

“It was just so interesting to me seeing it on that little scale,” she said. “It’s something that is so little, and yet is imbued with so much significance and so much emotional weight.”

Still, 10 years after her divorce, Horn was more than ready to sell the ring and use the profits to help others.

“It felt very good to have it gone,” she said. “As one could say, it went to a better place.”

This story was originally published on Sept. 28, 2017.