Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Woman Gets to Keep $10K ‘Engagement’ Ring After Breakup Because Boyfriend Didn't Formally Propose, Judge Rules

We love to write about romantic marriage proposals, but today we take a close look at who gets the engagement ring when a relationship fails and the wedding never takes place. What does the law generally say and what recently happened on Long Island that tossed conventional wisdom to the wind?


Although there is no uniform law in the U.S. or Canada regarding the return of engagement rings after a breakup, the most important factor in a disputed case is who broke off the engagement. In general, an engagement ring is a “conditional gift” until the couple actually gets married. If he breaks off the engagement, she keeps the ring, and if she breaks off the engagement, she must return the ring.

But that logic was turned on its head last week when a Long Island judge said that Debbie Lopez of Valley Stream, N.Y., could keep the $10,200 diamond ring her boyfriend Joseph Robert Torres, of Yonkers, gave her four years ago even though she put the kibosh on the relationship. His proposal wasn't good enough.

Lopez, the mother of Torres’ six-year-old son, argued that Torres never actually proposed and gave her the ring as “a gift for being a great woman, a good mother of his child.”

Torres claimed that he proposed to Lopez at New York’s Rockefeller Center in 2010 and allowed their toddler son to hand her the ring.

Nassau County Judge Scott Fairgrieve sided with Lopez, ruling that Lopez was not bound by the law requiring women to return engagement rings because it was “given as a gift and not in contemplation of marriage.”

So what are the takeaways from this story?

  • Who gets to keep the ring is generally decided by who broke off the engagement.
  • Delivering a formal marriage proposal is the best way to ensure that the engagement ring is viewed by the courts as a “conditional gift” and not a simple gift.
  • Most courts have found that an engagement ring given on a holiday or birthday makes it a simple gift.
  • Courts generally say that once a simple gift is given, it cannot be taken back. Exceptions are sometimes considered in the case of family heirlooms.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Six-Pound Gold Nugget Found With Metal Detector In Northern California's Gold Rush Country Sells for $400K

A palm-sized, 6.07-pound gold nugget found at a depth of just 12 inches by a metal detector enthusiast in Northern California’s fabled Gold Rush Country was sold last week to an anonymous buyer for $400,000.


The massive nugget, which was originally thought to be an “old pipe” or a “big piece of trash” because of the unusually high reading and loud sound it generated on the metal detector, was unearthed in July in the foothills of Butte County on public land. The nugget has been dubbed the “Butte Nugget” and the lucky prospector has chosen to remain anonymous.


Interestingly, the well-worn nugget (front and back views seen above and below) was discovered in an area that was worked in the mid-1800s during the original Gold Rush. In fact, the largest gold nugget ever to emerge during the 19th century Gold Rush days was reportedly a 54-pound chunk unearthed in Butte County, Calif., in 1859.


Kagin’s Inc., a numismatic firm based in Tiburon, Calif., was given the exclusive rights to market and sell the Butte Nugget. Only one day after revealing the specimen to the wide-eyed attendees of the San Francisco Fall Antiques Show last Thursday, Kagin’s announced that the nugget had been sold to a “prominent San Francisco Bay Area collector” for approximately $400,000.

Kagin’s had estimated the sale price would be between $350,000 and $450,000. The precious metal value of the nugget is $119,554 at today’s spot gold price.

“Nuggets like this don’t come along every day,” said Kagin’s senior numismatist, David McCarthy. “I really didn’t believe that I would see a California nugget of this size unearthed during my lifetime.”


Despite its enormous size and weight, the Butte Nugget is believed to be the second-largest California nugget in existence today. In fact, it’s only about half the size of the Mojave Nugget, which was found near Randsburg, Calif., by prospector Ty Paulsen in 1977. That nugget, too, was located using a metal detector. The 156-ounce Mojave Nugget was subsequently donated to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.


The largest gold nugget ever discovered was named “Welcome Stranger” and weighed an astounding 158.78 pounds. It was found at a depth of only one inch by Aussie prospectors in Victoria in 1869.

At 24 inches wide, the nugget was so large and so heavy that the gold scales available at the time couldn’t handle it. The miners decided to smash it into three pieces so the weight could be taken. Eventually, the world-record specimen was melted down into ingots and shipped to England.

Butte Nugget images: YouTube; Mojave Nugget image: Wikicommons.