It is a situation most couples don’t contemplate when they get engaged. But it is an issue lawyers are frequently asked about.

In the past, women have generally been expected to hand their rings back, but it appears that the law is changing. A Sydney man has learnt this the hard way, after unsuccessfully demanding the return of a $15,000 diamond ring from his ex fiancée.

Edwin Shien Bing Toh ended things with his former fiancée Winnie Chu Ling Su just days before their wedding. He expected her to return the $15,000 engagement ring, in addition to other luxury goods he had gifted her during the course of their relationship.

The court heard that the pair had met to discuss what should happen to the gifts they had exchanged during their relationship, with Mr Toh suggesting that each party return their gifts to the other.

Ms Su apparently agreed, demanding that Mr Toh “take off the shoes he was wearing”, as they were a gift from her. He did just that, returning the shoes to his ex, in addition to various other gifts he received throughout the relationship. (

But magistrate Rodney Brender found that this exchange failed to establish an oral contract between the pair, with Ms Su’s response likely fuelled by emotions.

In the past, jilted brides were forced to hand back engagement rings. But in this case the magistrate held that, because it is no longer possible to sue for breach of a promise to marry, an engagement ring should be treated as an unconditional gift.

It is still possible to make a gift conditional by “words or conduct”, the magistrate said. Ms Su was ordered to return the wedding bands as they had been “bought in contemplation of marriage”. (

A similar decision was reached in a Canberra court last year, with the magistrate dismissing an application for the return of an engagement ring after a relationship breakdown.

Image: Reader’s Digest

Emma Mead

Emma Mead

Personal Injury Lawyer and Founder