This is a great question, and the answer varies. Sometimes people say that it was a gift, so the woman should keep it. Others say it depends on who calls off the engagement. Then there are those who say whoever paid for it keeps it, but what does the law say? Well, that depends on where you are. If this is a legal issue it would do you well to check the legalities in your state for the answer. Based on moral code, whoever called off the engagement has to forfeit the ring.
This is more complicated that a legal issue though. In life there are a lot of unwritten moral codes that we live by. Still, making the right decision based on your standards is always the right answer. Let’s examine some legal and moral answers to this dilemma. I mean, in some cases this should not even be an issue. If you are the one causing the breakup the least you could do is offer the option of keeping the ring. In many cases it won’t be wanted much passed the healing process anyways.
First, if you cheated it is not yours, morally speaking. If you broke someone’s heart how do you in return ask for the one thing that they have left? That is unfair and often inhumane is she wants to keep it at all. There has to come a time when it is not all about you or legalities but about what is right and wrong morally. Why take another shot at an already hurting heart? Give it time, and the ring may make its way back to you without provoking things.
If you are still hell bent on seeing who is legally right and getting that ring back then it will depend on where you live and what type of gift it is considered to be. Different states have different laws and opinions on the situation. It may work in your favor if you live in a “conditional gift” state. That though depends on if you gave it to her on a normal day or on a holiday. This could change the gifting status.
The simplest of ways to view this is that the ring is a gift from the moment it is received. However, this gift is a conditional one. There is a promise to keep that it symbolizes, and that is marriage. Still, you voluntarily and knowingly despite the risks offered that property to another person as theirs to have. You cannot simply take back a gift unless there is a prenuptial or similar contract saying it is to be returned if the relationship fails. Then it becomes a conditional gift. If those conditions are not met legally you should get it back.
There are sometimes fault considerations involved with who gets the ring if the relationship becomes a bust. The ring is viewed in most court systems as a conditional gift offering ownership to the one purchasing it. However if the gifter is the one responsible for the failed engagement then it is not always returned. It will then be considered and unconditional gift. There are still some states that see it this way no matter what.
If you are involved in this situation it may require legal help. If you are the cause of the break up it is just morally right to return or nor request return of the ring. A lot of times the individual with the ring will return it after emotions die down anyways due to the strings and emotions it comes with. Sometimes time is all a resolution needs to transpire.
If you feel you have the legal right to keep the ring then think about your reasons. Do you really want it or is it a spite move. You don’t need the karma or the reminders. You have a bright future ahead, so if it is an issue give it back, That just shows even more how lucky you are that you didn’t marry that person in the first place. Breakups are never easy, so why complicate them further or carry any baggage around with you from them?