Photo“Forever” is the promise of both the engagement ring and your betrothed. But if “forever” suddenly comes to a halt, what happens to the value of your ring? New research shows that a diamond ring’s history can have a big impact on its re-sale value.

In a study, rings disclosed as products of divorce and other failed relationships were much less likely to sell — and were sold at lower prices — than rings without a negative history. In other words, when the relationship crumbles so does the value of the ring meant to symbolize it.

This finding contradicts previous research claiming that consumer expectations are fully met when an item cleanly fits into a category, says the study’s researcher Anne Bowers, an associate professor of strategic management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “Here’s a product that technically speaking, fits exactly the criteria for an engagement ring, and yet you still have problems,” says Prof. Bowers.

Disclosure of break-up

As it turns out, trains of thought such as, “I’m getting married, I need a ring, here is a nice ring” can easily be derailed by a ring’s history.

Analysis of data from 1.5 million eBay listings of diamond solitaire engagement rings over a 13-month period showed that rings with no disclosed negative history were more likely to sell and at higher prices. On the contrary, in cases where sellers disclosed a failed a relationship behind the ring — marked by comments like “not going to happen,” or “ring ring, wrong guy” — were less successful.

However, a separate survey showed that consumers were more likely to believe that a diamond ring from a divorce was authentic compared to the same one from a happy marriage or a jewelry store, but they weren’t willing to pay as much for it.

Social characteristics

According to Prof. Bowers, these results point to the fact that researchers should "think more carefully about what it is that defines whether or not you fit into a market.” When it comes to defining a market category, there are more than just physical characteristics — there are social characteristics, as well.

If marketers can develop different expectations of engagement rings — such as an interest in the size or cut of the diamond or simply getting a great deal — there is potential to "shift consumers away from the primary market, such as what online used ring marketer, ‘I Do Now I Don't’ has been trying to do,” says Bowers.

And if you’re stuck with a ring of your own to unload, Bowers says your best bet will be to try to sell it back to the jeweler you bought it from — but “be prepared to take a big loss.”

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