Rings remain favorite accessories for many reasons. They are easy to slip on and off, come in a wide, wide, wide range of styles, and add the perfect bit of bling to any outfit. Engagement rings and promise rings are no exception to any of these perks, and range from glittering, gem-encrusted knockouts to simple-but-sophisticated bands to the classic Claddagh rings from the Emerald Isle.
Here’s a fun fact for you: Irish wedding proposals have included the words “Do you want to be buried with my ancestors?”
Engagement and promise ring both symbolize undying commitment, with the Claddagh version representing love, friendship, and loyalty. Promise rings can also simply symbolize friendship or the promise of being friends forever and ever.
Intention is the main difference between a promise ring and an engagement ring, as they can look strikingly similar. Promise rings are essentially the “promise” of a lasting commitment, which can include the promise of an engagement someday. Engagement rings are pretty darn straightforward, as they are the physical embodiment of the question, “Will you marry me?”
Think of promise rings as the precursors to wedding rings – a person can receive a promise ring months or years before an engagement ring, or said person’s significant other, can skip the whole promise entirely and go straight for the engagement bling. Since both are generally quite expensive, many choose one or the other.
Let’s bring up the Claddagh ring again for a moment. This ring actually has four uses, if you can believe it!
Worn on the right ring finger with the heart pointed outward, it means the wearer is single.
Worn on the right ring finger with the heart pointed toward the actual heart, it means the wearer is in a relationship.
When worn on the left ring finger pointed outward, it symbolizes engagement.
When worn on the left ring finger pointed inward, it symbolizes marriage.
It provides a relatively-inexpensive all-in-one ring!
If you want to give a promise ring as a future engagement ring, go for it. Most people do not give engagement rings as promise rings, however, so keep that in mind when you’re on the hunt for the perfect design!
Other Experts’ Answers
Diamond Dealer Direct
“Despite what you may think, the premise of a promise ring isn’t new. In fact, in ancient times, rings were regularly used to solidify a promise, and such tradition has carried long into the modern world. With that in mind, it is easy to argue that all rings are promise rings.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the ancestors of today’s promise rings were starting to make a name for themselves. Exchanged as tokens of friendship or love, these simple pieces of jewelry were sometimes known as ‘posey rings’ and were typically engraved with a promise…
But what is a promise ring in modern day society? Despite its historical underpinnings, these pieces of jewelry have only really been labeled ‘promise rings’ since around the 1970s. Some will even argue that the term is only around a decade old.
Sometimes known as a ‘pre-engagement’ ring, a promise ring is a simple piece of jewelry given as a symbol of a committed relationship. In most cases, they symbolize monogamy, purity and, occasionally, a promise to remain celibate until marriage.
Promise rings come in a variety of styles including heart designs, yellow gold and the use of gemstones other than diamonds. They’re pretty, understated and rarely as flashy as their engagement ring counterparts.” – Diamond Dealer Direct
“While engagement rings typically have diamonds, promise ring designs are often less elaborate, with plain bands. As promise rings have grown in popularity, the variety of designs offered has also expanded. Engraved promise rings with a message of commitment are very popular, especially with the rise of custom made rings. This makes it easy to make your promise rings more personal.
If you are giving the gift of a promise ring, though, it’s important that you make your intentions clear. This is especially true if the promise ring has a diamond. Since giving a diamond ring is generally associated with proposing marriage, make it clear if you are only trying to give a promise ring; otherwise your significant other may feel misled or disappointed. You should also plan on spending more on an engagement ring than you would on a promise ring since it symbolizes a lifetime commitment.” – Brilliance
“The definition of a promise ring varies between couples, but promise rings are widely used as a symbol of commitment. “The appeal of the promise ring is derived largely from the many meanings it can represent,” says Kimberly Kanary, vice president of public relations and social media at Kay Jewelers. “While many couples use the symbol as a way to signify a future engagement, others simply wear the ring as a means of reflecting devotion to one another.”
As the name suggests, promise rings signify that a promise is being made, but the meaning of a promise ring differs from couple to couple. At its most essential, it symbolizes a partner’s love and commitment to the relationship. “You’re promising yourself to each other,” explains Brooke Brinkman, vice president of marketing and communications at Simon G. Jewelry, who received a promise ring from her now husband a year and a half before he proposed.
While in Brinkman’s case, the ring was a promise that an engagement would ensue, that’s not always the case. “I often think of promise rings as similar to the mid-century tradition of a guy giving a girl his class ring or pin in high school,” says Elizabeth Woolf-Willis, GG, AJP, marketing coordinator at Simon G. Jewelry. “Now it’s more than just ‘dating’—there’s a physical symbol of the relationship to show the outside world.”
Brinkman has noticed that the rise in popularity of promise rings echoes a growing trend for couples to happily cohabit and/or marry later in life. While they may not be ready or wanting to commit to marriage, a promise ring shows that their commitment does extend beyond merely sharing bills.” – The Knot
It’s important to note that promise rings don’t need diamonds or other gemstones. In reality, a design that includes a knot or rope, proving an “infinity sign” or a “forever” notion is perfect for this notion.