Who keeps the engagement ring after a breakup? 2 law professors explain why you might want a prenup for your diamond

A celebrity's engagement ring can cost millions of dollars. <a href="https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/jennifer-lopez-ring-detail-visits-the-elvis-duran-z100-news-photo/1141458193" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Noam Galai/Getty Images Entertainment;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Noam Galai/Getty Images Entertainment</a>

When Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck got engaged the first time, in 2002, he gave her a very pricey ring. That engagement ring was reportedly worth as much as $2.5 million, made by luxury jeweler Harry Winston and adorned with a 6.1-carat pink diamond.

After the movie stars broke up in 2004 without getting married, J. Lo said she intended to return the ring “quietly” to Affleck. Whether or she ever did that or not, was Lopez entitled to keep the that rock or any of the others she got from her numerous ex-husbands and former fiancés?

The answer can matter to anyone who is engaged, married – or even thinking about tying the knot. No one knows for sure how many engagements end in a breakup, although there are estimates that roughly 1 in 5 do so.

As law professors who teach property and family law, we frequently talk to students – and our own relatives – about gifts and marriage. Students often ask us who owns the engagement ring if couples don’t get married or if they eventually divorce. They also want to know what happens if the ring is stolen.

While taxes, laws and insurance are not very sexy topics, marriage has never been only about romance. It’s also a partnership with economic repercussions.

Rare before the 20th century

Engagement rings were fairly rare until about 100 years ago, even though the first diamond engagement ring was apparently given by Emperor Maximilian to Mary of Burgundy in 1377. But it wasn’t until the end of the Great Depression that a sophisticated advertising campaign created a market for diamond engagement rings in the United States.

By 1940, 10% of brides received diamond rings. That share jumped to 80% by 1990.


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Radiation in the postwar American mind: from wonder to worry

Blowing up the desert – and people's minds: the first atom bomb test in 1945. <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ctbto/4926598556/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:US Government" class="link ">US Government</a>
Blowing up the desert – and people’s minds: the first atom bomb test in 1945. US Government

More than seventy five years ago at a remote site in New Mexico, the first test of a nuclear bomb was detonated, producing a massive explosion. The test, which presaged the atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan in August 1945, forever changed the course of world affairs. Subsequent nuclear explosions, and the radioactive fallout they produced, quickly gave rise to worries over the dangers of radiation.

But what does “radiation” mean? And how have attitudes toward radiation changed over time?

The technical definition aside, for most Americans today, it means something like this: energies, often man-made, usually undetectable, that have strange effects on living things. We connect the abstract, physical concept with a personal, biological one. We take special notice when we are exposed to those energies, even briefly.

The early days: a glowing reception

In that sense, the age of radiation began in 1895 with the discovery of X-rays. In the half-century that followed, Americans indulged in optimistic fantasies about the miracles these energies could perform for better health. But they also quickly learned to fear them. On balance, the anxieties have had greater staying power.

Such reactions came from the many direct, personal experiences Americans had with irradiation in an era when radium and X-ray machines were icons of scientific modernity in the early 20th century. They were hailed as the wonders of the age, presented simultaneously as poisons and cure-alls, perpetual motion machines and planet-busting explosives. Radioactive substances (or plausible fakes thereof) were added to dozens of everyday consumer products, including toothpaste and lipstick, to enhance them with the mysterious energies of the atom. X-rays were tools of portraiture at the beauty salon (for

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