O’Connor: Re-used engagement diamonds ring up trouble

Brian J. O'Connor
Detroit News Finance Editor

Scene: The interior of a cozy Italian restaurant on Valentine’s Day (which is coming up Saturday, so order those roses now, loser). The camera zooms in on John and Marsha, two stylish divorcees obviously in love. They romantically eye each other as they coyly sip after-dinner drinks.

Marsha: Oh, John!

John: Oh, Marsha!

Marsha: Oh, John! I can’t believe what a lucky woman I am! These last few months have been like a wonderful whirlwind! I never thought I could love again after my divorce from that horrible jerk.

John: Oh, Marsha! I thought I’d be alone the rest of my life, too, after that ruthless harpy stomped her stiletto heels on my heart and then cleaned me out for every dime. That’s why I have something to ask you.

Marsha: Oh, John! You don’t mean …

John: Oh, Marsha! Of course I do!

Marsha: Oh, John! Please ... ask me!

John: Oh, Marsha, I will! So: Do you still have your old diamond engagement ring?


It sounds like an old radio comedy bit, but it’s actually happening in our new post-recession reality: Women are getting remarried and giving their old engagement rings to their new fiances, who then reuse the old diamond in a new setting. If your reaction is that this sounds like a shabby, psychologically freighted invitation to bring some verrrry bad marital karma to Happily Ever After: Take 2, you’re not alone.

Jewelers say it’s happening — although they’d rather sell you a new one, and think the practice of bringing an old diamond into a new marriage is, well, tacky.

Ex marks the savings

Tacky, yes, but also economical. Depending on the size of the diamond, an engagement ring with a salvaged solitaire would cost just the price of the new setting, typically $700 to $1,500. But using a retreaded rock saves the cut-rate Romeo anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000, the jeweler estimates.

It’s not that I’m against being frugal, but there are plenty of other options that all seem more straightforward. If you really don’t mind wearing someone else’s ring, look at estate jewelry or even the pawnshop, where at least it won’t be something from your ex. Seth Gold of Detroit’s American Jewelry and Loan, which is featured on the reality TV show “Hardcore Pawn,” notes that he stocks pawned engagement rings for as little as $100.

If the point is to reuse the diamond, it can be re-fashioned into something besides an engagement ring, says David Karagosian of Karagosian Jewelers in Sylvan Lake, who says he’s never had a customer reuse an old engagement diamond in a new ring.

“A lot of the time they’ll sell it or trade it and put the money toward a new diamond ring,” Karagosian says. “Or the woman will make a pendant out of it or a different ring for her right hand, but not put it in a new engagement ring.”

Mineral wrongs

Still, some couples don’t seem to have a problem, adds Steven Tapper, vice president of sales for Tapper’s Diamonds & Fine Jewelry in West Bloomfield.

“It definitely does happen,” Tapper says. “If the emotions and feelings can be separated from just that piece of mineral, then maybe they can enjoy it. The reality is that it represented one thing at one time but it doesn’t represent that any more. But it still holds a lot of value, so why have it sit in a drawer?”

A good point, but consider the statement a woman makes when her new engagement ring features a recycled gem, which would seem to be: “A diamond is forever. You, however …”

And if it isn’t the woman’s idea, any budget-minded suitor is better off dropping the idea entirely:

Scene: The interior of a used Pontiac minivan at night. Marsha stares angrily out the passenger window as they pull out of the restaurant parking lot. John drives grimly.

John: Oh, Marsha! Are you saying you won’t marry me if I don’t buy you a brand-new diamond engagement ring?

Marsha: Oh, John! I’m just afraid that if I did that, I’d have to reuse too many other things from my first marriage.”

John: Like your wedding china and silverware?

Marsha: No, like my therapist, accountant and divorce attorney.

Brian O’Connor is author of the award-winning book, “The $1,000 Challenge: How One Family Slashed Its Budget Without Moving Under a Bridge or Living on Government Cheese.”


(313) 222-2145

Twitter: @BrianOCTweet