What Is a Promise Ring and What Does It Mean?


Written by Emily


There are so many rings around today and you can get totally confused trying to understand what each really means. Engagement rings, purity rings, wedding rings, and promise rings are just some of the rings that are available. There are also pre-engagement rings and commitment rings.

There are numerous questions surrounding promise rings. What is a promise ring? What does it mean? How do you give one? Are they the same as purity rings? If you have some or all of these questions, then you are in the right place. Let’s take a dive and learn more about these rings. 

Promise Ring Defined

A promise ring is a ring that one person gives to another as a symbol of commitment and fidelity. Promise rings are exchanged between people in a romantic relationship and often come before an engagement. They are a symbol of devotion in a relationship. Though not many people truly understand what a promise ring means there are celebs who have embraced this concept. These include Ashley Tisdale, Miley Cyrus, Jennifer Aniston and Kristen Stewart.

When it comes to promise rings, any style goes. There is no particular style for promise rings but some of the popular designs include intertwined designs or heat designs. You could even use a Claddagh ring as a promise ring. This can represent the intention of giving your partner a promise ring.

What does a promise ring mean?

The meaning of a promise ring may vary from couple to couple. Like the name suggests, a promise ring signifies or represents a promise from one person to the other. Some couples may choose to wear promise rings to generally symbolize devotion to each other. They can do it to signify that there will be a future engagement. 

One thing that is uniform for all couples is that a promise ring is a step up from dating. It is a way to show the world that you are serious with each other. It also shows you are devoted to nurturing and growing that relationship. There are some people who do not believe in marriage. They therefore choose to have promise rings instead to mark their long term relationship.  

One thing you should remember about promise rings is that they are a precursor for an engagement. They are therefore not the engagement itself. Don’t break the bank for a promise ring. They generally tend to be quite affordable. Even then, keep your costs below $2,000 so that you can spend more on a quality engagement ring. You can get some stunning promise rings from retailers such as James Allen, Capucinne, Jared, Zales or Kay Jewellers. 

History of promise rings

The concept of a promise ring can be traced as far back as the Roman era. The Romans needed to wait for a specified period of time before they could marry. It was during this time that couples exchanged promise rings to signify their devotion to each other. 

The 14th century saw the introduction of the posy ring. It was a symbol of affection between people in a relationship.  Most times, the posy ring would have a short period phrase engraved on them to signify feelings of affection. The engraving was often in French or Latin. Later on in the 19th century,  acrostic rings became more popular as promise rings. These are rings that had gemstones set on them and there would be a secret message spelled out. For example,  “dearest” would be spelled out by setting the gemstones diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire and tourmaline gemstones in that order. 

In the contemporary world, a promise ring is mostly seen as a pre-engagement ring. Most people are not in a rush to get married which means that courtships now take longer. A promise ring is somewhat a midway guarantee that eventually you will get married but the timing is not yet right. 

What finger does a promise ring go on?

Unlike wedding rings, there is no specific finger that your promise ring should go on. You get to choose what finger, and even what hand your ring goes on. Some people even choose to have their promise ring on a chin around their neck. There are people who prefer to switch their promise ring from their left hand to their right hand after they get married. 

There are also people who suggest that a promise ring should go on the ring finger on the right hand. They say that this is from the ancient beliefs where there is a vein that runs to the heart directly from that finger. While this may not be anatomically accurate, it is the basis that they use. Generally, there are no rules to it. Wear your promise ring in the finger you feel most comfortable.  

Promise ring and purity ring. Are they the same thing?

Promise rings and purity rings are not the same thing. In some cases, there are people who choose to use promise rings as purity rings but not always. A purity ring is a symbol of a person committing to abstain until they get married. A promise ring on the other hand, is given to symbolize commitment in a romantic relationship. 

How to give a promise ring 

There is no traditional outline on how you give a promise ring to your partner. It is not like an engagement ring where the standard way of handing it over is by getting down on one knee. So how do you give a promise ring? One way you can give a promise ring is over a romantic dinner or in a secret place when you and your partner are having a meaningful exchange. It is important to talk it out with your partner before you give them a promise ring so that they do not confuse it for an engagement ring. 

In the past, it was more common for men to give promise rings to the women they were in a relationship in. This has however changed as both partners in a relationship exchange promise rings today. In some places, the couple pick out the promise rings together to show that they are committing to their partners. It creates a great chance for the couple to talk about what the relationship means to them and where they would like to be in the future as a couple. 

Promise rings vs Engagement rings

In some cases, a promise ring is a symbol to signify that there will be a coming engagement,  but this is not always the case. Some people would then wonder, if you want to get married eventually, why not just propose and give your significant other an engagement ring? Well, there are various reasons for this. Some of the factors in play could be finances, geography and age. Some couples feel that they are not financially stable enough to get engaged because of the costs that come with buying engagement rings.

Others are geographically across the globe from each other and feel that it is better to wait until they are in close proximity again for them to get engaged. There are also those couples that may feel they are too young to get engaged and want to wait until they are older for the big step. For these kinds of situations, couples may choose to have a promise ring as a placeholder until the time comes for a future engagement.  Here are some differences between promise rings and engagement rings:

The meaning 

A promise ring is a symbol of love and devotion, an engagement ring is a symbol of longer term commitment and it ushers in plans for marriage. A promise ring is a promise that you will get engaged or even married some time in the future but an engagement ring is given when you are actually ready to get married. It is essential that you explain what the promise ring is for to your partner so that they don’t confuse it for an engagement ring. 

The purpose 

A promise ring is mostly exchanged between people who are in a romantic relationship,  but this does not have to be the case. They can be given from a parent to a hill or even exchanged between friends who are promising to stick by each other. This is not the case for engagement rings. An engagement ring is only given to a romantic partner who you would like to get married to and spend the rest of your life with. 

The appearance 

Promise rings and engage rings look significantly different. Promise rings are simple, subtle and smaller than engagement rings. Engagement rings are more glamorous and way more expensive. Bigger stones are used for engagement rings, be it diamond engagement rings or gemstone rings such as ruby engagement rings or garnet engagement rings. Whereas engagement rings are fancy, promise rings feature a simpler band that can either be engraved with initials or just a precious metal band with no additions to it. 


A promise ring is a great way to communicate to your partner that you love them and that you are dedicated to them. One might wonder, what happens to a promise ring once you get engaged? You can do whatever you want! You can either opt to put it away, put it in a necklace and hang it around your neck or even switch it to a different finger on your right hand. Even better, you can choose to stack them up and start your own trend. If a couple ends up  breaking up before a wedding or engagement happens, promise rings are not always returned.  It could depend on the type of break up and what the participants prefer. 

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