You can’t put a price on love, but you can put a price on a breakup: $100,000.
Ryan Strasser, an associate at a law firm in Washington, D.C.,filed a lawsuitthis week against his former fiancée, Sarah Jones Dickens, asking for the return of a 4.06-carat, $100,000 engagement ring, which he called a “conditional gift,” according to court documents. The couple was due to be married earlier this year and their relationship is outlined in sometimes excruciating detail.
The couple met as college classmates at Duke University in 2004 and started dating in 2015, the court filing states. Strasser earned a law degree and a Master of Public Administration, while Dickens studied art history in Cambodia and later enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Duke. They moved in together in December 2015. The following year, the beaming couplewas photographedat a Modern Luxury magazine social event.
The engagement photographs show the couple holding hands, strolling through a snowy winter wonderland in a wooded area in February 2017.
The court filing includes many personal details from their relationship. “Every lawsuit is a fight. Every lawsuit tells a story. But this one is a soap opera, a country-western song—and a cautionary tale,” said Jenna Greene, the San Francisco-based editor of The Litigation Daily, who first reported the case. “In rich, painful (and possibly unnecessary) detail, Strasser lays out his version of how he was wronged.”
The lawsuit details the evolution and eventual disintegration of the relationship in chilling legalese. “Defendant accepted the ring and the marriage proposal upon which the offer of the ring was predicated,” the suit states. “Roughly 11 months later, the parties’ marriage plans collapsed with a highly contentious break up that ended their engagement.”
Strasser claims in the suit that Dickens insisted that she deserved a “large” engagement ring because she did not believe in wasting money on a wedding and, for that reason, the couple should hold a smaller wedding and, instead, spend “extra” on an engagement ring, “something she would enjoy daily for the rest of her married life.” Strasser and Dickens then had a “preliminary discussion” about the parameters of an engagement ring.
Initially, Strasser wanted to spend no more than $40,000 on the ring. “Defendant stated that whatever she would eventually want likely would cost more than that,” according to the court filing. Following “multiple trips to several jewelers,” Dickens allegedly told Strasser she preferred an engagement ring of around 3.5 to 5 carats “with an inclusion rating of no ‘worse’ than VS2 and a color rating of no ‘worse’ than G,” ratings that indicate the quality of the diamond,” the suit states.
Dickens had a very detailed vision for her ideal ring, the suit claims. “She also advised that her diamond could have no florescence” and wanted an “Old European Cut diamond, a type of diamond cut using a manufacturing process in the early part of the 1900s that has since fallen out of fashion due to improved diamond-cutting technology,” according to the court filing.
Although Strasser told Dickens that $99,800 exceeded his budget for the ring, he acquiesced and agreed to buy the ring. At Dickens’s request, Strasser had the ring re-certified in December 2016 to ensure it had not suffered any damage since its previous certification in 2012. (Strasser also took out a $30,000 personal loan through online lender Social Finance Inc. (SoFi) at an interest rate of 5.95% per annum to help pay for the ring.)
“The bigger the ring, the bigger the problem,” said Michael Stutman, managing partner at Stutman, Stutman & Lichtenstein in New York and past president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, New York. Family law varies from state to state, but in New York City and Washington, D.C. the gift of an engagement ring only becomes complete at the wedding ceremony, Stutman said. (Stutman is not representing either party in the case.)