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What is a promise ring?

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Promise rings are exactly that, a ring to symbolize a promise. A promise does not necessarily have to be between couples; it can be to yourself or between family and friends. There are no established rules regarding the giving and receiving of promise rings, unlike say an engagement ring. Still, there are some general guidelines connected to this tradition. In this guide, let’s take a look at this time-honored tradition and what you need to know before you give yourself or someone else a promise ring!

Promise Rings Are Not Engagement Rings

Many people confuse promise rings with engagement rings when really, there is a lot of difference between the two in terms of the type of ring as well as the emotions involved.

While engagement rings are for couples who have already decided to take that big step and get married, promise rings are commonly given before the engagement. A promise ring may mean different things to different couples, but in essence it is the perfect way to demonstrate love and loyalty, commitment and fidelity in a symbolic way. This is why they are perfect for couples who aren’t ready to get engaged but who still want to make a commitment to each other.

In terms of the type of rings, engagement rings often cost more and are larger, more valuable and tend to have large gemstones.   Most couples often put in a lot of effort when searching for an engagement ring, and are willing to spend thousands on it. Promise rings, on the other hand, are more understated and subtle.

Promise Ring vs. Purity Ring

Another confusion is whether a promise ring and a purity ring are the same thing. Yes and no.

Purity ring is a type of promise ring. A purity ring is promise to a parent/guardian or to oneself to remain celibate until marriage. This particular use of promise rings has entered the mainstream and become the in thing to do, thanks to huge pop stars like Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, and Demi Lovato, who famously followed the trend.

However, promise rings are typically used in the context of romantic relationships as a symbol of a couple’s commitment and love for each other.

What is the Purpose of a Promise Ring

A promise ring can be given for a number of reasons and can take on different meanings, depending on the relationship between the giver and the receiver.

  • Between lovers: As a pre-engagement ring, it is a symbol of fidelity and commitment between two people who are not quite ready to get engaged. 
  • Between friends: If two friends exchange promise rings, it’s a symbol of preserving the friendship and to maintain an unbroken bond.


  • As a ‘please wait for me’ symbol: Promise rings are also commonly given when someone leaves but promises to come back. This will symbolize faith and love between the giver and receiver. It’s ideal for people who have to work or study in another city, travel the world or serve abroad but want to ensure that the one they love will wait for them. 
  • Between parents and children: Promise rings between family members represent eternal love. It can be given by parents to their daughters or sons on graduation day, for example, a time when many children leave to begin a new life. The ring becomes a reminder that after everything they’ve gone through or will go through, they know they can always come back.

Types of Promise Rings

Promise rings are typically subtle, dainty and elegant, and aren’t generally worn to attract attention. There are many options to choose from. Here are some of the more popular promise ring designs.

  • Promise Rings with Engraved Names

Engraving your names on your promise rings is an excellent way to add personalization. It’s widely popular between couples and makes a statement about their love and commitment to each other. You can choose to have your names on the outer side of the ring, with a significant date engraved on the inner side.

  • Promise Rings with Couple’s Fingerprints

Just like engraving your names, engraving your fingerprints offers a unique way to personalize your promise rings. It’s subtle and uniquely you, as no one else in the world has you prints. While names can be read by everyone, fingerprints are more private.

  • Diamond Promise Ring

Diamonds symbolize endurance and integrity. They’re also the hardest substance out there, adding the symbolism of strength and commitment to your ring.

Also, there is that extra sparkle and glamor in a diamond promise ring. Unlike with an engagement ring, though, diamonds in promise rings are usually small in size or in little clusters. The focus is generally on the ring itself and not the stone.

  • Single or Double Knot Promise Rings

Knots have always signified unbreakable pledges. The very phrase ‘tying the knot’ means to get married. All this is to say that knots are excellent symbols to incorporate into your promise ring.

The single and double knot promise rings are simple and understated. They are made of metal only and don’t contain any flashy stones. Single knots are great for friends and family, while a double knot is more suited for couples.

  • Matching Promise Rings

Matching promise rings are extremely trendy, loved for the sense of equality that they indicate. Both partners wear the same or similar rings that have match each other in some way.

The matching element can be in the color of the metal, the gemstones used, or the motifs incorporated into the design. In general, men’s promise rings will be somewhat wider, while women’s rings tend to be thinner and more dainty.

How to Wear a Promise Ring?

There are no rules as to which finger a promise ring should be worn on. It depends on each person’s preference. Usually, you can wear a promise ring on the ring finger of your left hand if you are still unengaged. After the engagement, you can then transfer it to the other hand if you do get married. Some prefer to loop it through a neck chain like a pendant.

Make Sure You Both Are on the Same Page

When giving a promise ring, it’s important to be clear what the ring represents and what the promise is. Both the giver and the receiver should be on the same page about this, otherwise there can be issues down the track.

You also don’t want the ring to be viewed as an engagement ring, especially if that’s not your intention. One way to get around this is to write down the meaning of the ring on a card when giving it to your significant other. This will remove any assumptions.

Wrapping Up

For many couples, a promise ring comes before an engagement ring, as the perfect way to say I love you. Unlike engagement rings where the focus is on the ring and the proposal, it’s the meaning behind a promise ring that’s important. And this can vary depending on you and your partner. To know more about promise rings, check out our article on the 10 things to know about promise rings.

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