Engagement rings vs promise rings – what’s the difference? Join us as we explore the promise ring and identify the differences between the two.


What is a Promise Ring?


Promise rings can be a symbol of a person’s choice to remain chaste until marriage. For a lot of people, promise rings indicate that two people have intentions to get married at some point. The meaning behind promise rings is quite a flexible one, making them very accessible for a huge variety of people.


Lots of people use promise rings as a precursor to engagement rings. This is a great choice for young people, as well as people who are in a less stable financial position. There are no hard and fast rules about promise rings. There’s no expected minimum of how much money needs to be spent on a promise ring. While engagement rings often have a lot of social pressure attached to them, promise rings are much freer.


Promise Ring Styles


Similarly, there are no explicit rules about the styles in promise rings. Promise rings can feature diamonds and be very similar to engagement rings in many cases. When promise rings are used by a couple who intend to get married, it’s not uncommon for the promise ring to heavily resemble an engagement ring. A popular design for promise rings is to have a ring with a diamond-studded circle. With these rings, the stone of the engagement ring goes into the diamond circle and becomes one beautiful piece. Equally, rings that don’t feature diamonds, such ruby rings, sapphire rings, emerald rings, or other gemstone rings are all acceptable for a promise ring.


Promise rings also provide a great alternative for people who want to show they are committed to someone, but don’t have an interest in marriage. This is because the promise ring doesn’t have to have the follow up of an engagement to be completely valid. If you are in a committed relationship, but have no desire to get married, perhaps promise rings are for you.


Engagement Rings vs Promise Rings

Engagement Ring

Wearing a Promise Ring


The rules of wearing a promise ring are another factor that adds to its freeing appeal. While engagement rings are worn on the third finger of the left hand – aptly named the ring finger – promise rings have no such ties. One of the reasons engagement rings are worn on this finger is because it was once believed that there was a vein in the third finger that led directly to the heart. Therefore, wearing a ring on this finger was a strong metaphor for the romantic connection between two people.


With promise rings, however, the traditions and rules don’t apply. Promise rings can be worn on any finger, and in many ways act like more of a fashion ring than a traditional commitment like engagement rings. Whether the promise ring is used as a symbol of unity between two people, or it’s a commitment one person has made to themselves, promise rings are a very liberating way of being devoted. Promise rings are even sometimes worn on a chain around the neck, and so wearing it on the hand isn’t even an essential in itself.


The History of the Promise Ring


While promise rings haven’t existed in their current form for an especially long time, jewellery with the same sentiment has been around for centuries. Whether as a token of platonic or romantic love, jewellery is a great communicator. Promise rings were used by bishops to symbolise their commitment to their role in the Church in the medieval era. Because of this, promise rings have a very strong connection to religion.


The earliest form of promise rings as we know them existed in the 1570s, called a posy ring. Frequently, these rings were engraved with romantic messages. In addition to this, popular romantic Victorian jewellery featured secret messages. Sometimes called acrostic rings, the first letter of each of the gemstones featured on these rings spelled a message. For example, a diamond, emerald, amethyst, ruby, emerald, sapphire, and topaz all in a row spell DEAREST. Furthermore, a ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, ruby, and diamond all in a row spells REGARD. This means the person giving the ring holds the recipient in high regard. These rings were very popular displays of affection and suggestions of commitment. Clearly, promise rings have existed in some form or another for a long time. Even in the 2nd century BCE, Ancient Roman brides-to-be wore a form of promise rings given to them by their suitors.


Promise Rings and Purity Rings


Purity rings – against common belief – are not the same as promise rings. The purity ring has a strictly religious sentiment attached. A purity ring is an indicator that someone has committed themselves to God. Sometimes, young couples exchange promise rings or purity rings to show their choice to abstain from sex until they are married. In this instance, the two people are both committing to each other and also to God. Because of this, people associate promise rings with purity rings – understandably. However, it’s important to spot the distinction to avoid confusion.


Promise Rings vs Engagement Rings


As you will likely understand at this point, engagement rings are not the same as promise rings. Sometimes promise rings are given as a precursor to an engagement ring, but engagement rings are (usually) always followed by marriage. However, promise rings do not guarantee marriage in a couple’s future.


If you want to give your loved one a symbol of your commitment, but you’re not quite ready for engagement, or perhaps you don’t intend to marry, a promise ring is a great idea. Not only that, but there’s also a lot more choice available when it comes to promise rings. Now that you know the difference between engagement rings and promise rings, you can make an informed decision about what jewellery you need to get your message across. The next time you come into the dilemma of engagement rings vs promise rings, you’ll know the differences and be prepared. Good luck!


Promise Ring

Written by

Bethany Massey

Having graduated university with a BA in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing Bethany then joined the AC Silver team as a content creator. Bethany spends her days writing content for the AC Silver blog and other luxury goods/antique publications.