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Hands holding a ring

A promise ring is meant to be a symbol of the dedication and commitment between two people. Though they are similar in sentiment, a promise ring is often given in lieu of an engagement ring, especially if the couple is young or unprepared to take a step toward marriage. Rather, it is a ring that signifies the couple’s desire to be together long-term, without or without the legally binding contract of marriage. Unlike engagement rings, however, the rules and traditions surrounding promise rings are far less rigid, including the standard of design, where they are worn, and how you gift it...

What Finger Do You Wear a Promise Ring On?

Where a promise ring is worn ultimately depends on the true meaning of the ring for the person wearing it. Typically, if the ring is given with the intent to become formally engaged at a later time, placing the ring on your fourth finger on your left hand is appropriate. If the style of the promise ring is cohesive with the wedding jewelry that follows, you may continue to wear it on the same finger as part of a complete stack or ring set. However, if the design is conflicting with the engagement ring or wedding band, many will choose to continue wearing their promise ring on another finger or not at all. 

If an engagement is not planned or looming, however, the promise ring would traditionally be worn on the right ring finger. This helps to eliminate any confusion of those outside the couple who may otherwise believe them to be formally engaged upon seeing the ring on the left hand. Although the right ring finger is the most common placement for a promise ring, the truth is that it can be worn on any finger on either hand, it is a personal choice for whoever is wearing it.

In some cases, people have even chosen not to wear it on their hands at all, opting instead to wear it as a pendant on a necklace or a charm on a bracelet. Similar to those who choose to wear a promise ring as a sort of pre-engagement ring on their fourth finger of their left hand, if someone wearing the promise ring in an alternative location, like a necklace, were to become engaged they could choose to continue wearing the promise ring or remove it. 
A Note on Claddagh Rings:  A traditional Irish ring representing love, loyalty, and friendship, the Claddagh ring has a distinct ring design and the placement of it on the wearer’s hands has a specific and precise meaning. The ring design consists of two hands holding a heart upon which rests a crown. The hands symbolize friendship, the heart is love, and the crown is loyalty. Traditionally, these rings were used as engagement and wedding rings, though over time, their placement has evolved to create new meanings.

First, if the ring is worn on the right hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips, the wearer is single and might be looking for love. Worn the opposite direction, the wearer is not looking for love, though that could mean they are in a relationship or single and just not interested. If, however, the ring is worn on the left ring finger with the point of the heart toward the fingertips, that person is engaged. Upon being wed, the wearer would flip the ring around to represent their marriage. 

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Why a Promise Ring?

As you can see, answering the question of “what finger does a promise ring go on, can depend on why it was given in the first place. While a promise ring is most often meant to symbolize the romantic relationship between two people, that is not the only representation it may have. Some of the most common reasons to give a promise ring include: 
  • Pre-Engagement:  Couples that are very committed to one another and ultimately intend to get married may choose to exchange promise rings as a representation of their dedication. There are a variety of reasons which may contribute to the decision to delay an engagement such as age, waiting for life milestones such as graduating college, or other life goals the couple would like to achieve before making official plans to marry. A promise ring may also be used as a placeholder until one partner saves up to purchase a formal engagement ring. 

  • Monogamy:  This promise ring would simply reflect a promise to remain faithful to one another and only each other. At this time, marriage, engagement, or even pre-engagement may not be an option yet, or perhaps the couple has no desire to marry at all, but still want to make this pledge to each other and have a visual symbol of their vow.

  • Religion:  A far less conventional reason to have a promise ring serves as a symbol or act of devotion to one’s faith. In this case, the ring is often given to oneself and can be worn as a representation of the commitment an individual is making to a particular spiritual path or specific teachings that are meaningful to the wearer. A religious promise ring, however, may not include a promise of chastity which would put it in the category of purity rings. 

Types of Promise Rings

The placement of your promise ring may also depend on the type or style of ring you choose. Ever wondered what a promise ring is supposed to look like? While there are some common patterns and designs most often associated with promise rings, there are no firm requirements when it comes to choosing the ring. If, however, it is meant to be a pre-engagement ring, it is generally understood that it should be cheaper and less ornate than the eventual engagement ring. Some of the most popular styles include: 
  • Infinity Knot:  Representing eternal love and fidelity, this ring would feature one or more interwoven knots resembling the infinity symbol or a tied bow. This design is most often used for pre-engagement or monogamy promise rings, though it is always recognized as a symbol of the strong relationship and love for one another between a boyfriend and a girlfriend.
  • Heart:  A simple and quite literal symbol used to reflect the love a couple has for one another, the most commonly seen heart-shaped ring consists of a simple gold or sterling silver band with a heart at the centerpiece. More elaborate versions of this type of ring may include diamonds, gemstones, or other precious metals. These rings are most often used to represent a pre-engagement commitment. 

  • Plain Band:  This simple, yet elegant ring is a plain band with no design or stones set into it. The unornamented look of this ring lends itself nicely to all purposes of the promise ring and is commonly worn by males. 

  • Engraved:  In this case, the rings will be embellished with some sort of carving whether that be a pattern on the ring’s exterior or a partner’s name inside the band. An engraving can also be added to another style to add a personal touch and increase the attachment between the couple and the ring itself. 

  • Interlocking:  One of the most popular styles for promise rings, these rings are designed to fit together when placed next to one another. They symbolize that each person who wears one is part of a larger whole when they are together, making them a popular choice for pre-engagement or monogamy rings. 

  • Gemstones:  Increasing in popularity is the notion that a promise ring should be a more statement-making fashion piece of jewelry. Since engagement rings are typically diamonds, the promise ring provides the opportunity to incorporate other gemstones that might otherwise be overlooked. This style adds to the flexibility of the promise ring allowing for plenty of individuality and can be used for nearly any purpose of the promise ring. 

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For each of these designs, the ring could be worn nearly anywhere, but certain styles may be viewed best with specific placements. For example, a plain band worn on the left ring finger would often be mistaken for a wedding band. Though that is fine should you choose to wear your promise ring there, wearing it on any other finger would eliminate the possibility of such confusion.

Similarly, with the rise of non-diamond engagement rings, a gemstone ring worn on the left ring finger might also cause confusion. While others mistaking the purpose or intention of your ring may not seem like a big deal, it could become irritating to be asked about your engagement constantly. 


Buying & Giving a Promise Ring

As you consider the type of promise ring you would like, it is also important to understand how the various options will impact the price of the ring. While traditional promise rings were often made of precious metals such as gold or sterling silver, modern rings can be made out of nearly anything. For example, some may choose to purchase rings made of synthetic material like silicone which is flexible, durable, and very affordable at a price point around $15 to $30.

Alternatively, natural materials like wood will elevate the look of the ring while keeping the price manageable or selecting a ring made of gold, platinum, or tungsten will dramatically increase the price. The priciest of rings will consist of precious metals as well as gemstones or diamonds and could cost thousands of dollars. If you don’t know where to buy a promise ring, make sure you do your research and choose a place that offers high quality products at affordable prices.

The way promise rings are presented or exchanged can be as unique as the ring itself. Unlike an engagement which is usually focused around creating a big moment and includes traditions like a partner getting on one knee and then formally announcing the outcome to friends and family, giving a promise ring to a girlfriend can be a much more intimate affair. In fact, some couples may choose not to tell others about their decision.

However, presenting a partner with a promise ring can be made more memorable by including a short speech that expresses your emotions about them, singing a song, reading a poem, or declaring your feelings in some other way. 

So, what hand does a promise ring go on? Part of the appeal of a promise ring is that it can mean a variety of things to many people. The nature of the ring gives you the flexibility to decide what it represents to you and your partner. While many choose to wear it on one of their ring fingers, and most often on the right hand, each individual should feel comfortable wearing their promise ring wherever and however they want to symbolize best the commitment they are making.