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What is a Promise Ring?

Rings have been around for thousands of years to relay all types of messages to the world, including identification, rank, authority, and a variety of commitments between two or more people. In today’s society, we have adapted this tradition from wedding bands to purity rings, each with its own unique meaning. However, with so many options, it can be challenging to differentiate between each ring and determine which one is right for you. The promise ring, in particular, is shrouded in some mystery as to what it is actually meant to represent and the appropriate way to wear it. 

What is a Promise Ring?

At its most basic level, a promise ring is meant to signify a pledge or vow between two people. Traditionally, it would be tied to a romantic relationship between the two and represent their fidelity and long-term commitment to one another, the timing of which usually preceding a formal engagement. In essence, giving the ring symbolizes that individual’s devotion to the relationship as does the other’s accepting of the ring.

However, a promise ring or band does not always indicate a looming engagement. While some couples choose to exchange rings as a symbol of their intention to be wed, others simply want a physical manifestation of their dedication to one another. In these cases, the ring helps the couple move beyond just “dating” and can show the world they are devoted to each other. It is this flexibility in the promise ring definition and its many meanings which makes it so appealing to many. 

The History of Promise Rings

Jewelry has been worn for hundreds of thousands of years dating back to ancient Egypt and biblical times. In those days, couples were often betrothed to one another in a legally binding ceremony which meant that the couple would eventually be married. While this is similar to the meaning of modern engagement rings, it is also considered to be the start of promise rings as the groom-to-be would give his intended bride a ring during the ceremony to show his commitment to her. Since then, the use of rings to symbolize the dedication of one person to another has been apparent throughout history. In Roman times, brides wore plain bands to represent their marriage. 16th century England brought the use of Posy rings which were engraved with romantic poems and were a gift between lovers. Acrostic rings used gemstones to spell words, using ruby to represent the letter R for example, and were popular in the Georgian and Victorian eras. 

Today, promise rings have resurfaced thanks to a trend that has seemed to catch on with a number of different celebrities. For example, musician Miley Cyrus and actor Liam Hemsworth exchanged promise rings once upon a time as did beauty mogul Kylie Jenner and rapper Tyga. 

What Does a Promise Ring Mean Vs. Engagement or Purity Rings?

Over time, some have confused the meaning of a promise ring with that of an engagement or purity ring. In fact, the intentions of the three types of rings are similar, but a few key differences distinguish them. First, an engagement ring is only given when there is an intention to be married in the near future. As was previously mentioned, a promise ring can be given with or without the desire to be wed. In this sense, a promise ring is something you might give before an engagement ring if the decision of marriage is one that has yet to be determined, but the couple is fully committed to one another.

Purity rings, on the other hand, are often a physical symbol of one’s dedication to abstinence before marriage. Traditionally, these rings are given by a parent to a child, or even to oneself to represent this notion as opposed to a promise ring which is usually given as a token within the confines of a romantic relationship. Given that the purity ring does represent a promise, it is not surprising that the two rings are often mistakenly believed to be synonymous.

Wearing a Promise Ring or Band

Though it may sound as if a promise ring is less serious than an engagement or wedding ring, that is not the case. This piece of jewelry is still meant to represent a wholehearted commitment between the couple and is often only given after they have dated for a significant amount of time. Recently, promise rings have grown in popularity as a direct result of modern living arrangements. Many couples are happy to cohabitate before marrying later in life, if at all. Wearing promise rings allows them to show that their devotion extends beyond casual dating or simply living together, representing the deeper and more meaningful vow they have made to each other
Due to the nature of promise rings, there are fewer formalities surrounding who in the couple can give and wear the rings. Some couples choose to give the rings to each other, with both individuals wearing the rings. Other times, one individual will give their partner a ring to pledge their devotion or demonstrate how much they value the relationship. Regardless, there are no gender roles tied to promise rings, and anyone can give or wear them. 
Don’t know which finger you should wear your promise ring on? Similarly, the finger or hand a promise ring is worn on is the choice of the one wearing it. Often times if there is some intention to be married or engaged at a later date, the promise ring can be worn on the left ring finger. However, if the promise ring is not linked to marriage, wearing it on the right ring finger may be more appropriate according to some traditions. Ultimately, this piece of jewelry can be worn on any finger, and some even choose to wear it on a chain around their neck. As is the trend with promise rings, there is a lot of flexibility when it comes to who, how, and where the ring is worn. 

Presentation of a Promise Ring

Just remember, there are still a lot of differences between a promise ring vs. engagement ring, including its design. When it comes to the style of a promise ring, once again, there are little to no rules or requirements about its appearance. Some of the most popular promise ring designs are those including hearts, such as the Irish Claddagh ring, eternity rings, or woven designs that represent the union of the couple. However, plain or stone encrusted bands, mosaics of stones, and large singular stones are also available. The material can also vary from simple silicone to wood to platinum, giving the buyer many options to choose from. Depending on the style and design you choose, the cost will vary significantly, often ranging anywhere from $50 to thousands. 

Perhaps the most important thing to consider when purchasing a promise ring is whether or not you plan on proposing in the near future. Engagement rings have a more defined style and associated expectations, while promise rings can be viewed as more of a fashion or statement piece. While both are beautiful and serve a purpose, you will want to be careful that they don’t look exactly the same or compete with one another. Keep in mind that a promise ring should cost significantly less than an engagement ring. 

Once you have selected the ring or rings, it is time to present it to your significant other. In keeping with the theme of promise rings, however, there are no concrete rules on how to give your girlfriend a promise ring. Unlike an engagement which traditionally has expectations of a more elaborate and planned proposal complete with certain customs, like the proposer getting down on one knee, promise rings can be given by any means deemed fitting by the giver. Often, promise rings will be given as a birthday, Valentine’s Day, or holiday gift, though a simple and romantic dinner can be the perfect place for a meaningful exchange to take place. In reality, the conversation about what the promise ring means to each couple specifically and the promise being made is more important than the ring itself. Conversely, the focus of engagement is more often on the ring and the moment followed by a formal announcement to family and friends. 

What Happens Next?

Whether or not anything else happens after promise rings are exchanged is completely up to the couple. Some may decide that making this private commitment to one another is enough and live happily ever after without being engaged or married in which case they would continue to wear the promise rings as long as they desire. Others will want to take their devotion to the next level and become engaged then married. In this scenario, the couple could decide to no longer wear their promise rings and swap them out for wedding bands.

Unfortunately, some couples may come to find that staying together is not what they want. Though a promise ring is meant to symbolize a long-term commitment, it is not a guarantee that things will work out. Even when the pledge of a promise ring is rescinded, they rings may or may not be returned to one another. Whether or not a promise ring is returned ultimately depends on the nature of the breakup and how things are left between the couple.

So, what is a promise ring’s meaning?  Well, it is entirely up to the individuals giving and wearing them. There is a lot of flexibility in the meaning of the ring, its appearance and design, how and when it is given as well as what happens afterward. Though promise rings have been in use for centuries, they were largely forgotten until recently. It is the open nature of the promise ring that may be the cause and contribute to its increasing popularity, especially among younger generations who are waiting longer to get married (or choosing not to at all) but still desire the long-term commitment of a partner. 

No matter how or why you choose to introduce promise rings into your relationship, Modern Gents Trading Co. is your shop for beautiful and affordable rings. All of our rings are made with high-quality precious metal materials ranging from 925 Sterling Silver to tungsten carbide and are crafted with precision, so you can rest assured that you are getting a superb product that will stand the test of time. Plus, with a 100% satisfaction guarantee and hassle-free returns or exchanges, we guarantee that you will find the perfect rings for you and your partner. If you don’t know where to buy a promise ring, start your search with Modern Gents Trading Co. Or, if you're ready to take that next step in your life and purchase an affordable engagement ring, browse our selection today.