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Deceased Jewelry - Why Will Is Important

Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,

My grandma died three months ago, and my mother and aunt have been arguing over grandma's jewelry. My aunt already took grandma's diamond pendant and sapphire ring. Mother took her emerald ring and another piece. The jewelry my aunt took is worth a lot more than what my mother got.

Who should get my grandma's engagement ring and wedding ring? My grandpa was going to give one to my mom and the other to my aunt, but the engagement ring is worth more. I heard that the engagement and wedding ring set always go to the first born daughter. What is the etiquette?


Tearing the family apart

Dear Tearing the family apart,

Because your grandmother did not leave a will designating which jewelry should go to whom, the jewelry belongs to your grandpa. It is his decision alone as to who should get the engagement ring and/or wedding ring. There is no etiquette rule, but there is a tradition that to keep heirloom jewelry within the family, the eldest daughter can receive a piece of jewelry, then the next eldest daughter receives a piece, and so on. Sons can also receive heirloom jewelry if there is enough to go around. Or, the decision can be based on who was closest to the deceased.

It sounds like the value of the jewelry is not because of sentimentality, but for the actual cost of the item. If I were grandpa, I wouldn't give out any jewelry right now. Grandma just passed away, dispersing her belongings can wait until grandpa feels he can make a sound decision. He should take as long as he feels is necessary, years if that is what he wants. Who knows, maybe he'll decide he doesn't want to part with the rings, and keep them himself as they probably have sentimental value for him. Hopefully, he'll make out a will and designate to whom the rings will be given after his passing.