What’s the Meaning Behind Promise Rings?

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During a relationship, partners give each other valuable presents as a token of their love and devotion. One of the most common symbols of this kind is rings, which are usually given to women. When it comes to expressing commitment to the relationship, rings are a classic jewelry piece and a favorite gift option for this purpose.

Since relationships have several different milestones, there are also different types of rings corresponding to each milestone. Due to this, we have promise rings, engagement rings, wedding rings, as well as anniversary rings in between.

In this article, we’ll focus on promise rings and find out more about their meaning, history, and their timing, and etiquette.

What Is a Promise Ring?

Couple promise ring

If you seriously want to get engaged one day but for whatever reason, let’s say finishing college, saving for the big ring, being physically apart from your partner or the timing is just not quite right. Well, there’s a ring for that – the promise ring!

With this ring, lovers promise to be committed to each other, often with the implication of becoming engaged. This centuries-old romantic tradition symbolizes loyalty and commitment. The idea behind it is that once the promise ring is given and accepted, the partners can rely on each other and trust they’ll stay true to their word.

We could say that promise rings assume the role of a placeholder ring, saving the spot for later relationship milestone rings. However, a promise ring doesn’t necessarily mean a later proposal. They are simply symbols of love and can have a unique meaning for each couple.

What’s the Meaning of a Promise Ring?

Promise ring fingerprint
Promise ring with fingerprints by Aydins Jewelry. See it here.

Many people relate promise rings with adolescent love, infatuation, and sometimes, abstinence, but the true meaning behind promise rings goes much further and it’s a common gesture between lovers of any age.

As its name would suggest, a promise ring is a sort of pledge between two people, which differs from couple to couple. The charm of a promise ring lies exactly in the large variety of personal meanings it can signify. For some couples, giving and wearing a promise ring means future engagement and marriage. For others, it’s purely a sign of love, commitment, and fidelity and a beautiful declaration of love and affection for partners who are devoted to each other without the goal of getting married someday.

In other words, a promise ring represents a step further from dating. It’s an indication to the outside world that your heart is taken and that you’re in an exclusive relationship you want to nurture and protect.

Whatever the promise of your promise ring, you can engrave it onto the ring and have that message as a reminder of the commitment you made to one another.

What Should a Promise Ring Look Like?

As with engagement rings, there aren’t any rules on how a promise ring should look like. When choosing a promise ring, it’s best to be guided by your partner’s character and style.

And if you plan to exchange promise rings and you discussed it before, then you can go shopping together as there’s no element of surprise that could be ruined. This way, you can both choose what you like and what best suits you.

If you’re still not certain about your promise ring style, here are some trends that are popular nowadays:

1. Rings with smaller diamonds:

Large center stones in solitaire design are commonly associated with engagement. A promise ring that indicates a future proposal usually has smaller diamonds of 0.25ct or less.

Promise ring diamonds
Dainty promise ring with diamonds by Ardonn. See it here.

2. Rings with love motifs:

If you’re looking for something with more character, go for a promise ring with love knots, heart motifs, or infinity symbols.

Infinity promise ring
Infinity promise ring by Beautiful With You. See it here.
Coordinate ring
Promise rings with coordinates by Caitlyn Minimalist. See it here.

3. Gemstone rings:

If you want to add a splash of color and specific meaning to the ring, target gemstone promise rings that feature your partner’s birthstone.

Moonstone promise ring
Vintage-inspired moonstone ring by Aquamarise. See it here.

4. Simple bands:

A promise ring made of precious metal in a single band style is an ideal option for those couples that plan to marry as these can be later used as wedding bands. To add some flair to it, you can engrave your names, fingerprints, or anniversary dates.

Infinity twist promise band
Simple infinity twists promise band by Joylene Design. See it here.

Promise Ring Vs. Engagement Ring

Engagement ring styles
Typical engagement ring design featuring a solitaire diamond in a halo setting. See it here.

Many people often confuse the two although they have quite different connotations. Unlike engagement rings, a promise ring may hint at an engagement and marriage, but it doesn’t promise them. It promises, however, that the relationship will keep going forward and is worn as a symbol of commitment and love toward your partner.

Also, a promise ring could be given at any point in a relationship without setting the wedding date. There’s no single meaning of a promise ring, and it could be given to mark a milestone in a relationship, devotion to your partner, or some other event or meaning that’s unique and personal for a couple.

When it comes to ring design, promise rings are usually aesthetically simpler and less elaborate than engagement rings, but still very beautiful and elegant. However, there are no rules of course, and you can still choose a promise ring that features a large center diamond or other gemstone or opt for any other style for that matter.

Promise Ring Vs. Purity Ring

True love waits ring
Purity ring design by Verse Wear. See it here.

Promise rings aren’t only confused with engagement rings, but also with purity rings, and these two terms are more often than not used indiscriminately. However, promise and purity rings have different meanings, representing two distinct promises and commitments.

While promise rings can signify whatever you and your partner decide, purity rings are specifically meant to symbolize a pledge of abstinence before marriage. Purity rings are usually made of sterling silver and don’t feature diamonds or other gemstones. They are often given with an engraved message, like Love Is Patient or True Love Waits.

When Should I Give a Promise Ring?

Giving a promise ring isn’t as big an event as giving an engagement ring, as it doesn’t necessarily point toward marriage. But, for the couple, it’s an important moment, nonetheless. Luckily, there aren’t any restrictions or rules as far as timing for giving a promise ring goes, making the whole process quite enjoyable, pressure-free and straightforward.

In essence, a promise ring is a physical symbol of your love and dedication to the relationship, regardless of what you have in mind for the future. However, if you’re not sure when to give your girlfriend or boyfriend a promise ring, but you wish to show your commitment, here are some ideas:

  • If your relationship is still new, and your family might think it’s too soon for a proposal, you can give your partner a promise ring as a sign you already know you want to commit to them;
  • If you’re both still very young and financially dependent on your parents, but you’re certain you want to be together;
  • If you have to move to a different city or country because of work or studies and spend some time apart from your partner, a promise ring could be a beautiful symbol of commitment to a long-distance relationship;
  • If neither you nor your partner believes in marriage, but want to seal the deal in some way that’s less formal but still intimate and romantic;
  • And finally, there are different anniversaries, Valentine’s Days, birthdays, and other opportunities and occasions you can use to give your true love a promise ring.

How Should I Give a Promise Ring?

Whether you choose to give a promise ring over a romantic dinner or while having a casual walk, it’s up to you. As long as you don’t make it over the top, without getting down on your knee and other grand gestures and speeches, you’re good to go.

To avoid misleading your partner that you’re about to propose, it’s best if you talked about the ring beforehand and discuss what the ring means for both of you.

While exchanging promise rings, partners would often say what it means to them right now and what it promises for the future.

The History of a Promise Ring

Modern posey ring
Modern poesy ring by Katrhyn Riechert. See it here.

The concept of promise rings was born in Europe during the Late Medieval Period, from the 13th to 16th century. As tokens of love and romantic interests, men would give women the so-called posy or poesy rings. They were named posy rings after the French word poésie, which means poem or poetry. These rings were exchanged to communicate secret love messages between the giver and the wearer, which were inscribed onto the ring in a form of a short romantic rhyme, such as After Consent Ever Content; As Gold Is Pure, so Love Is Sure, and many others.

During the Georgian and Victorian eras, slightly more elaborate promise rings emerged, the so-called acrostic rings with multiple different gemstones. In acrostic jewelry, secret love messages were spelled using the first letter of each gemstone’s name. For instance, a ring that spells ADORE would have amethyst, diamond, opal, ruby, and emerald.

Promise rings as we know them today sparked as a mainstream trend not so long ago, thanks to celebrity couples such as Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, Nick Jonas and Priyanka Chopra, and others. As relationships progressed, people would give promise rings as some sort of halfway reassurance and guarantee that their bond will keep growing.

Wrapping Up

A promise ring is a pledge of your love and it should be a promise you intend to keep. It can mean many different things, but it will always symbolize a couple’s commitment to a future together. Hopefully, this article helped you to get a better image of what to do if you decide to express your love and commitment with a charming promise ring.

Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years in the jewelry niche. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education. She has always been interested in expression through fashion and accessories, and her extensive experience in the field has made her a respected voice in jewelry trends and education. As the chief editor of Jewelry Shopping Guide, she not only leads the content strategy but also shares her insights through engaging articles. Her passion for storytelling is reflected in every piece she curates, exploring the intricate relationship between jewelry and personal identity.

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