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Promise Rings versus Engagement Rings

Promise Ring vs Engagement Ring: What's the Difference?

Due to the nature of promise rings, they are often mistakenly believed to be synonymous with engagement rings. Though they have some similarities, there are a few key variables that distinguish the two types of rings from one another. Understanding the difference between promise rings and engagement rings will ensure that you and your partner make the right choice to signify where you are in your relationship. The main areas where the promise ring vs engagement ring differ are their meaning, style, and traditions surrounding them. Let’s take a closer look at each of these areas. 

Meaning & Representation

Man holding woman's hand wearing The Belle

Ring: The Belle

One of the most important distinctions between the promise ring and engagement ring is the intention behind them. An engagement ring or wedding ring has a clear purpose: to signify that the couple is to be married in the near future. That is the sole purpose of such a ring. 

A promise ring, also known as a commitment ring, can have a variety of meanings. First, it may be used as a sort of pre-engagement ring representing that the couple intends to become engaged, but for whatever reason are delaying the occasion. Second, the promise ring may be used to identify the long-term commitment and monogamy a couple is making to each other. In this case, the couple may not intend ever to get married and are happy to continue as faithfully dedicated to one another. Finally, though it is a much rarer use of a promise ring, it can be used to commit oneself to their religious faith. When this is the purpose of a promise ring, it does not necessarily entail a vow to be abstinent until marriage, rather the focus is placed on the individual’s religious journey. In essence, a promise ring simply symbolizes a pledge between two people and has more flexibility in what it can represent. In most cases, this piece of jewelry symbolizes that the couple is in a committed relationship and plans on staying together in the future. 

Style & Design

Woman's left hand wearing The I Do on ring finger

Ring: The I Do

In addition to the variation in the purposes behind each ring, promise rings and engagement rings tend to deviate from each other when it comes to their style as well. For the latter, diamonds are traditionally included with at least one large stone at the center. The band of an engagement ring is nearly always made of precious metals, such as gold, sterling silver, or platinum, as well. The design can be more elaborate from there to include smaller stones surrounding the larger one in addition to engraved messages or other ornamental motifs on the band. As a result, when purchasing an engagement ring, you can generally expect to pay upwards of $5,000. 

Alternatively, promise rings look different than engagement rings and tend to be less elaborate and the materials it is composed of are more varied. For example, a promise ring may be a plain silicone band for around $15. Other materials include wood, gold, sterling silver, platinum, or tungsten. It is not uncommon to see some ornamental ring designs such as heart, infinity knots, or even colored gemstones as well depending on the budget of the individual purchasing the promise ring. Generally speaking, however, one should expect to spend far less on this piece of jewelry compared to an engagement ring. 

Customs & Traditions

Woman's left hand wearing The Grace

Ring: The Grace

As seems to be the theme with promise rings, the customs and traditions surrounding them are much less rigid than those associated with engagement rings. Promise rings can be worn on any finger on either hand, with some even choosing to wear them as pendants on necklaces or charms on bracelets. That said, the most common placement for a promise ring is the right ring finger. Additionally, promise rings can be worn by either partner, or both may choose to exchange rings. The procedure for giving a promise ring to your girlfriend is also flexible in nature and often more informal than an engagement. 

Engagement rings, on the other hand, are surrounded by more pomp and circumstance with traditions dictating how things should be done. Typically, one partner will propose to the other, often by getting down on one knee. This ceremony of sorts will usually be the result of some planning and be a bit involved. After the other partner accepts the proposal, the engagement ring is placed on the left ring finger. The couple will then privately announce their news to close family and friends before sending out a more formal announcement to a larger social circle.

Woman's left hand wearing The One and Only

Ring: The One and Only

Though commitment rings and engagement rings have their differences, they are similar in one very important way. Both rings represent a strong commitment between two people in a couple. That pledge is usually long-term and involves a vow to be faithful to one another. Don’t know where to buy a promise ring or engagement ring? Whether you are ready to be engaged or looking for a beautiful ring that will show your significant other how much you value your relationship, Modern Gents Trading Co. has affordable options that are sure to be exactly what you are looking for.