What is a Promise Ring?

What is a Promise Ring?

By now you’ve likely heard of promise rings. These wearable symbols of commitment are gaining popularity lately but causing confusion at the same time.

After all… what exactly is it that the wearer is promising? Are they intended to be worn by men or women? And perhaps most commonly — what’s the difference when comparing a promise ring vs. engagement ring?

As you might have guessed, we’re going to answer those questions and more right here in this blog post! By the end, you’ll be able to provide the answer next time someone asks “what is a promise ring, anyway?”

Are Promise Rings a Recent Trend?

Well, yes and no. Promise rings have certainly become more mainstream lately, but the promise ring, or at least the idea behind the promise ring, has been around for thousands of years. It’s even thought that the promise ring may date all the way back to biblical times.

Back then, couples became “betrothed” rather than engaged. Rather than a private promise between the couple, a betrothal was actually a legally-binding ceremony that meant that the couple was promised to each other and would eventually marry, whether sometime soon or years later.

The groom-to-be would give his future bride a ring that would act as a symbol of his commitment to her. This is thought to be the origination of the modern-day promise ring.

There is also evidence that engagement rings date back even further than biblical times to the 2nd century BC. Roman brides appear to have worn engagement rings that demonstrated their loyalty and fidelity. The rings were (and still are) traditionally worn on the “ring finger” of the left hand because there’s a vein that runs from that finger to the heart.

A more direct origin of the promise ring can be found several hundred years ago in 16th century England. These rings were given as a promise of love and affection, and would be engraved with romantic poems, giving them the name “posy rings.” Acrostic versions of the rings would spell out a word in gemstones such as rubies, emeralds, garnets, amethyst, or even diamonds. These rings were quite popular during the Georgian and Victorian eras.

Despite this long history, it does appear that promise rings have become more popular within the last decade. Promise rings have reached the mainstream mainly because of celebrity usage, with young stars like Miley Cyrus and the Jonas brothers wearing promise rings.

While the Jones brothers, for their part, seem to have confused a promise ring for a purity ring, couples began exchanging them and wearing them as symbols of their love. Purity rings are meant to symbolize abstinence in general, not necessarily within a romantic relationship. However, purity rings and promise rings have since become synonymous.

What Is a Promise Ring?

Promise rings are mainly used as a symbol of commitment between a couple, however, the exact definition likely varies from couple to couple. It is this unique customization that gives the promise rings much of their appeal. Since the rings can represent a number of different things, many different couples with different goals and promises can find a use for them.

Promise rings don’t solely signify a future engagement, they can also simply be a symbol of devotion. The ring symbolizes a promise made between a couple, but what exactly that promise is will be up to the couple to choose. But generally, the promise comes back to love and commitment to the relationship.

It’s important to note that a promise ring does not necessarily indicate a forthcoming engagement. Sometimes it does, but this isn’t always the case. A promise ring may often be a physical symbol of a relationship to the outside world, much like wearing a partner’s class ring or pin. A promise ring would be the modern-day equivalent of this 50s and 60s practice.

Why Are Promise Rings More Popular Now?

As we mentioned above, celebrity usage brought promise rings back to the mainstream, but they are also becoming more popular because of the growing trend of couples either happily cohabitating without ever getting married, or getting married much later in life. A couple may have no desire or not be ready for marriage, but want to symbolize their commitment beyond sharing a living space and bills. The promise ring offers a viable option for these couples.

What is the Significance of a Promise Ring?

A promise ring can mean nothing and everything simultaneously. They may seem entirely silly and unnecessary to one couple while another may find them to be a touching sentiment and an ideal way to showcase their relationship as it stands — you can almost consider it a physical “relationship status.”

As we’ve mentioned, the real beauty of a promise ring is that the significance or meaning is largely personal. One couple’s promise rings may have an entirely different meaning or underlying promise than another. Yet overall they will likely signify some form of commitment to one another.

A promise ring most often serves as the first physical token of a developing relationship. You could think of it as a sign that you are ready to “go steady” with someone, to borrow a phrase from dating’s storied history.

Promise rings can be just that as well — without any romantic connection required. You can share a promise ring with a friend or family member. For instance, a promise ring can be a symbol of family commitments. A parent may give their child a promise ring as a sign of their bond, and a promise to always watch over them. The ring can signify a friendship bond that will never be broken. They can be tied to your faith, abstinence, and even the breaking of a bad habit. As you can see — there is quite a wide range!

From “I will always love you” (shout out Whitney Houston!) to “I promise I will always be your friend,” there is a vast array of promise ring… promises. It could be a promise to marry one day, just not now (for its own wide set of specific reasons). It could be a promise to be faithful to someone or move onto the more serious phase or your relationship. Or it could be a promise to quit drinking or smoking.

If you have a promise you want to make and keep, a ring is a good way to put a physical symbol to that promise. They also may even help serve as a constant reminder of your promise and help keep you moving toward your goal.

But How is a Promise Ring Any Different Than An Engagement Ring?

While a promise ring CAN signify a promise to marry, it doesn’t have to. And even when it does, a promise ring generally serves as a symbol that you are going to marry at some point in the future, just not right now. Meanwhile, an engagement ring signals that marriage is forthcoming sometime soon.  

While a promise ring often does represent a commitment to a relationship, it does not necessarily have a timetable attached to it. It serves as a symbol to each other and to the outside world that you are together and serious, but have no immediate plans for marriage. If your relationship plans do move toward marriage in the future, the engagement ring will replace the promise ring, and the promise ring most often will move to the other hand.

Can Men Wear Promise Rings?

It’s a common thing to wonder if there’s even such a thing as promise rings for men. But of course, men can wear promise rings too!

On Which Finger Do You Wear a Promise Ring?

It depends on the promise you’re making! If your promise ring is meant to signify that an engagement is the next step, then the ring will traditionally be worn on the ring finger (the one next to your pinky) of your significant other’s left hand. When it is replaced by an engagement ring, it will often shift to the other hand or be taken off.

The time-honored tradition for the engagement ring is actually to be worn on the third finger of the left hand, but this tradition has shifted as time has gone on. Now the wedding band and engagement ring are most often worn together on the ring finger.

When the promise ring is not attached to a promise of marriage, it is usually worn on the person’s right hand to prevent any confusion, however, there is no right or wrong way to wear your promise ring — again, it is entirely up to you!

Promise Ring Guidelines

There are no firm rules or proper promise ring etiquette, but there are some common guidelines you can follow.

While a promise ring doesn’t carry quite as much significance as an engagement ring, it is still a sign of a serious commitment. In a romantic relationship, it should generally only be given after the couple has been together for a decent amount of time to show how serious you are about the other person.

In terms of style, you actually likely want the ring to be less ornate than your future engagement ring so the two won’t compete for attention later on. Your engagement ring should be clear as the sign of a larger commitment such as a marriage promise. While they each serve a purpose, an engagement ring is a sacred vow while a promise ring is more of a fashion statement with a promise attached.

Those giving and wearing promise rings tend to be younger and with less of a budget, so the ring itself is usually more modest in design. When giving the ring, you don’t need to make a grand presentation and get down on bended knee either. You can have a nice dinner or share a special moment, but you don’t have to go as far with the romantic gesture as is expected of an engagement proposal.

Where to Find a Promise Ring

Since any ring can really be utilized as a promise ring, it’s not hard to find out where to buy a promise ring! You can find them at any jewelry store. Yes — that includes us here at His Ring Shop — because like we said, guys can wear promise rings too! Feel free to browse our selection and find a ring with a style that you think uniquely symbolizes whatever promise it is that you’d like to make.


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