A ring can communicate intention, emotion, and commitment. Not providing that token at some point can cause stagnation, stress, and concern in the relationship. Beyonce summed that up when she sang, ‘if you like it, then you shoulda put a ring on it!’ But what if you’re not ready for engagement? A promise ring might be the best next step.
What is a Promise Ring? A promise ring is a ring that’s given, and received, as a token of commitment (a promise) to someone—or a particular ideal. Promise rings serve as a visible reminder to the wearer and also as a notification to those that see it on their hand that a commitment of some kind has been entered into.
The remainder of this article will tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about buying, giving, and wearing promise rings of various kinds. You’ll understand what they communicate, what they should look like, what they typically cost, and much more.
Table of Contents
What is the Purpose of a Promise Ring?
If you’ve found yourself wondering, ‘what is the point of a promise ring,’ you’re not alone. They’re not as well known, or familiar, as engagement rings and wedding rings. The commitments that promise rings symbolize aren’t as consistent either.
So, what is a promise ring’s purpose? The purpose ultimately depends on the context described by the giver when the ring is presented. When the ring is given by a romantic partner, it’s typically intended to convey a strong mutual commitment to each other. When given by someone other than a love interest, it’s often a sign of a strong and lasting friendship. Outside of a romantic relationship, the ring can indicate that the wearer is making a commitment to a particular goal, standard, or ideal.
What Does a Promise Ring Symbolize?
Again, a promise ring’s meaning is framed and understood by the way the ring is presented, and who it’s being given by. There’s typically a conversation that transpires in the moments leading up to the gifting of the ring. That conversation tells the intended wearer what they’re committing to, and what the ring is expected to convey, as they wear it.
There’s also common meaning found in the ring itself. The materials used in the ring, and the overall beauty of the ring, have symbolic parallels to the value and beauty of the relationship, or other commitment. The shape of the ring, a circle, has no beginning or end, symbolizing eternity, or the enduring nature of the commitment.
Promise rings can be used for any of the following purposes, and many others:
- Relationship exclusivity
- Unique Friendship
- Symbol of a parent’s endless love for their child
- Commitment to significant and specific goals
- Commitment to religious ideals
With so many potential applications, promise rings can be a great way to mark, or memorialize, commitments of many kinds.
Why Give a Promise Ring?
A promise ring can help to define the status of a relationship between two people. It provides a visible reminder of the other person that can draw the thoughts of the wearer back to their partner, or a particular promise, throughout the day. The ring also communicates a deepening commitment to the other person and potentially progress toward future marriage.
Those that like to move slowly, might find that a promise ring allows them to try something similar to engagement without taking that bigger step just yet. They can sometimes provide a lower level of commitment for someone that wants to test the waters for a potential future marriage proposal.
Promise rings are often far less elaborate and expensive than engagement rings, so they can also be more cost-effective when money is tight.
Is a Promise Ring Bad, Cheesy, or Childish?
People will have different opinions on this, but I’m confident that most will agree that there’s nothing wrong with making a commitment to someone, or something, and then memorializing that commitment with a piece of jewelry. If you think about it, that’s exactly what we’re doing with engagement rings and wedding rings. The fact that the commitment being made typically isn’t the same for those wearing promise rings, doesn’t make it less significant, cheesy, or childish.
This practice is nothing new. Promise rings have been gifted and exchanged for centuries. Even after all these years, promise rings are used to mark a wide range of special commitments.
Promise Ring History
Where did the promise ring originate? Believe it or not, these rings have been traced back to the ancient Romans—hundreds of years before Christ. In those days, laws required couples to announce their intent to marry and then wait at least a certain amount of time before marrying. A ring served as a token of their intent.
After hundreds-and-hundreds of years, the Europeans began using promise rings very similarly to the way we use them today during the late 15th century.
What Is Another Name for a Promise Ring?
Promise rings can be used in a number of specific ways, and are known by a variety of names in those various applications.
- Chastity Ring
- Purity Ring
- Abstinence Ring
- Commitment Ring
- Friendship Ring
- Non-Engagement Ring
- Pre-Engagement Ring
Additional information on all these potential uses will be shared below.
Is a Promise Ring the Same as an Engagement Ring?
No, but the purpose of the two ring types is somewhat related in certain instances. An engagement ring means that you’re planning to get married—the meaning is fairly defined and specific. The possible range of meaning for a promise ring is MUCH broader.
I’ll provide more clarity on the distinction between these two ring types below.
What is a Promise Ring vs an Engagement Ring?
Again, promise rings and engagement rings are similar but different. Here are three ways they’re similar:
- Both serve as a visual notice to others that you’re already committed to someone.
- Both remind the wearer of a commitment made.
- Both signal a maturing (evolving) relationship.
Here are a few ways that they’re different:
- Engagement rings are often bigger, more expensive, and fancier (though not always the case).
- They can represent very different specific commitments (engagement rings represent the specific intention to get married, while promise rings don’t necessarily need to symbolize that same intention).
- They may represent a different level of commitment (engagement is often viewed as a more serious commitment).
As mentioned above, a promise ring, used in this application, may also be called a Commitment Ring, a Non-Engagement Ring, or a Pre-Engagement Ring. I wrote this entire article on the difference between an Engagement Ring and a Promise Ring. You should read it if you want more even more information on these rings and how they relate to each other.
Can a Promise Ring be Used as an Engagement Ring?
The two rings are usually different, but they could be the same. There are no universal rules, or even guidelines, regarding what an engagement ring has to look like. If you receive a nice solitaire as a promise ring, for example, it could be repurposed as an engagement ring—and even a wedding ring further down the line.
I proposed with a diamond solitaire that I borrowed money to buy at the time. When we got married a few months later, my fiancee removed the ring before the ceremony so I could put it back on her ring finger as a wedding ring.
Transitioning a ring from a promise ring to an engagement ring, and later, perhaps even a wedding ring, could build the sentimental value of the piece, and keep you from accumulating too many rings that end up sitting idle in the future. Ultimately, this approach could save you a lot of money as you start your lives together (filled with many other expenses).
Some may cringe at the thought of using the same ring to mark both relationship milestones. On the surface, it might feel like it’s a sign that the giver doesn’t value the relationship enough to celebrate it with a new ring. I can understand that initial impression, but I see the situation a little differently.
Rings are a physical representation of an inner commitment. It’s not about the ring—it’s about that commitment. Have you ever heard of someone tying a string to their finger to make sure they remember something? Every time they see or feel the bow on their finger, they think of the thing they’re supposed to remember.
After completing the task that the string was supposed to represent, they could decide to leave it on to help them remember a completely different item that also has to get done. The SAME string can work for remembering completely different things at different times.
Promise rings and Engagement Rings serve a very similar purpose—when you see or feel them, they help you to think of your partner and the commitment that you’ve made to them. As that commitment evolves, the meaning that the ring carries can evolve too.
Using the same ring for both stages of a relationship is the minimalistic approach that leads to the smallest negative impact on the environment and your pocketbook. Again, this approach could also lead to increased sentimental value for the ring, since it will have stayed with you for so long, and through so many stages of your relationship. Those who buy different rings to mark each new stage of the relationship end up gathering a small collection of rings over time that they eventually rarely use—or even look at.
Let’s face it our taste and style is almost never the same as our partner’s. If you try to surprise them with a special ring, like an engagement ring, you’re unlikely to pick the same ring style FOR THEM that they would have likely chosen FOR THEMSELVES. Because ring shopping together is always safest, you might decide to propose using the promise ring you gave them in the past, and then go ring shopping (together) for a separate engagement ring in the days that follow, if you’d like.
My Brother-in-Law surprised his girlfriend with an engagement ring that he had purchased without her. She loves him—but HATES the ring. It doesn’t look anything like the styles that she loves most. It isn’t about diamond size, it’s about design for her. They’ve now been married for more than 20 years, which means she’s had to wear a ring that she really doesn’t like the look of for a LONG time now. A promise ring could help you to avoid making a costly mistake like this.
All of this doesn’t mean that you can’t, or shouldn’t, use a separate ring to propose when you’re ready to get engaged—just that it isn’t REQUIRED.
Can you propose with a promise ring without having your wife get stuck with it long-term? Sure—this hybrid approach is often a GREAT option!
Should a Promise Ring be a Surprise?
I love surprises, but I know other people that hate them. Whether the presentation of a promise ring should be a surprise, or expected, depends on your personalities, how well you can keep a secret, and how confident you are in your ability to pick a ring style that your partner will appreciate.
Have you ever met someone who can’t stop looking at their new ring? They’re excited about the relationship milestone that the ring represents—but they also LOVE the ring they were given! It’s really nice when you can have that kind of outcome! If you and your partner have a similar sense of style, you may be able to purchase the perfect ring without needing their input. If you’re like most couples though, and don’t always agree on fashion and design, you may want to get their input on the ring before committing on a given ring (especially if you’re spending a lot on it). Here are a couple of ideas for getting input.
Another option is to guess…but keep your receipt. If you purchase from a retailer that allows returns (and you should), you’ll have the opportunity to surprise your partner with the ring, but STILL, exchange for another ring if they end up not loving the style you chose for them.
What Should a Promise Ring be Made Of?
Promise rings can range from simple and inexpensive, to the ornate and costly. The most inexpensive options are typically made out of metals like Stainless Steel, Sterling Silver, or various base metals plated with gold, platinum, or other precious metals.
If you’d like stones to be incorporated in your promise ring, the more inexpensive options typically involve Cubic Zirconia (CZ) stones. If you have a larger budget, you might consider alternatives like Moissanite, Morganite, or various colored gemstones. Diamonds are also available options. While large diamonds can be incredibly costly, smaller diamonds are much more affordable and can be used in some really beautiful ways as the main focus fo the ring or embellishments.
If you’re able to, you could consider metals like gold (yellow gold, white gold, or rose gold), platinum, or palladium. I mentioned earlier, that it’s possible to use your promise ring as an engagement ring as well. Need to save money in the short term, while still making the engagement process to feel really special in the long term?
If you purchase a promise ring that’s made out of gold or platinum, you can help to keep your cost low in the short term, by mounting a Cubic Zirconia to it for now, while it’s serving as a promise ring. The ring will look beautiful, won’t be excessively expensive, and will work well as a reminder of your love and commitment. When you get engaged, you can take that gold or platinum ring and replace the CZ center stone with a lab-created diamond, Moissanite, or some other stone that catches their eye. With the new stone, their old, familiar, ring will take on a new life and feel like it’s brand new!
What Does a Promise Ring Look Like?
There are many ring styles and designs that could be used as a promise ring. I’ll highlight several examples, but they’re only the very beginning of the options that you have available to select from.
Simple Promise Rings
Some people aren’t looking for flashy. Simple fits best. These rings appeal to the minimalist, and those that have a ‘less is more’ philosophy. If you’re looking for a simple promise ring for her, you might be drawn to something like the following. It has a simplicity that’s delicate and elegant.
Infinity Loop Rings
These rings have additional significance for some, based on the symbolism that’s built into the design. The sideways figure 8 is a symbol for infinity or forever.
Love Knot Promise Rings
Like many other promise ring designs, the love knot style has symbolism that adds real depth and meaning for many couples. Knots are a long-standing symbol for promises and serious commitment. The two sides of the knot hold and support each other. When joined properly, knots allow two separate pieces of rope to become one, to have increased capability, and to, collectively, withstand incredible pressure.
Tiarra Promise Rings
It’s said that a picture ‘is worth a thousand words.’ The image that this ring style provides is also a clear statement that’s made without words. Tiarra Promise Rings are a continual reminder of just how the person wearing the ring is thought of by the one that gave it to them. It says you’re a special—a princess!
Heart Promise Rings
A heart-shaped promise ring is a constant reminder of love. It’s a simple design with a message and meaning that’s heartfelt and powerful.
Fingerprint Promise Rings
There’s something awe-inspiring and special about the fact that fingerprints are unique to each individual. The fingerprint of the one you love on your ring is a continual reminder of how unique and special they are. The fingerprint also literally makes your ring different than ALL other rings in existence. It symbolizes the uniqueness of the other person, your love, and your commitment.
This is a fun combination of the heart symbolism and the uniqueness of the customized fingerprint.
Engraved Names Promise Rings
Seeing your partner’s name on your ring can be an additional special connection that engraved promise rings provide. There are many fonts, letter sizes, and materials to choose from if you choose to purchase this type of ring. You’ll also have the option of engraving on the outside of the ring, the inside of the ring, or BOTH! These are obviously customized rings, so in addition to the name, you can also engrave a date that’s significant for your relationship—or even a special message like, “Love You, Babe!”
Gemstone Promise Rings
Gemstones add a splash of color to promise rings. They allow you to use complementing colors and contrast to make a ring even more beautiful. The particular gem chosen can also add meaning, in some cases, because various gems are said to represent different emotions or sentiments. It’s interesting to read about those meanings, but I wouldn’t obsess about them—because the MOST important objective is for the person wearing the ring to LOVE it. That might mean choosing a striking color combination or using a stone that’s one of their favorite colors.
Promise Rings For Men
There are many colors and options for rings that could be used as promise rings for guys. Whether they like something thin or wide, shiny metal or camo as a finish, you’ll be able to find something that works well for them.
Matching Promising Rings
If you’re both wearing promise rings, you can choose rings that match or coordinate if you’d like. There are many options here too. The ring could resemble each other in terms of color, finish, and/or theme. Sometimes the graphics on the surface of the ring or the language engraved on the surface of the two rings fit together in some way.
Christian Promise Ring
These rings have religious symbolism that serves as a continual reminder of important beliefs, convictions, and ideals.
Purity (Chastity) Promise Ring
Almost any ring can serve as a purity ring. The important thing, is the meaning attached to the ring (more than what the ring says). It serves as a reminder regarding a commitment. The ring pictured be says, “I will wait for my beloved,” but only “my beloved” is visible on the outside of the ring.
Promise ring with birthstones
Birthstones represent the month in which you were born, and become a really nice way to customize a ring in a meaningful way while also adding some beautiful color to the ring. Some designs will allow you to add the birthstone that represents both of your birth birthstones if you’d like.
Promise Ring Bands
A promise ring band keeps things simple. No stone—just the metal ring as a reminder of your simple, but strong, commitment to each other. Some couples don’t want to draw a lot to the commitment they’ve made. They’re more reserved and like more simple things. If that sounds like your partner, this might be the right ring style for them.
Silicone Promise Rings
Silicone rings are really gaining in popularity! They’re extremely comfortable to wear, inexpensive, and more casual than many other options. Quality brands are extremely durable. You can wear them in the pool or shower. You can also work in them without fear of damage, in fact, they were originally worn by factory workers and craftsmen that couldn’t work with normal rings on for safety reasons. Silicone rings come in a wide variety of designs, widths, and color combinations.
Again, the examples shared above represent just SOME of the major categories of style options available, but the full scope of possible styles is vast! The important thing to understand, is that there are rings available to match every style preference and budget.
How Can You Tell if it’s a Promise Ring?
In most cases, promise rings look the same as many other types of rings, however, they typically are less expensive and ornate. For example, you would rarely find someone wearing a multiple carat diamond solitaire as a “promise ring.” It would be far more common to find a ring with one or more small stones or gems used as a promise ring.
You can recognize promise rings by the way they way they’re presented (what is said as they’re being given). Outside observers can sometimes recognize a ring as a promise ring when it isn’t being worn on the ring finger of the left hand AND there’s no other ring on that finger. Of course, it is quite possible for someone to wear a ring on one of their other fingers strictly for fashion, so you can’t be sure based on that observation alone.
How Will You Feel If He Gives You a Promise Ring?
Receiving a promise ring can be exciting for some, but disappointing for others!
If you’re hoping for an engagement ring, for example, you may initially be disappointed and wonder, “why did he give me a promise ring—doesn’t he see me as marriage material?” That’s especially true if you’ve already been dating for many years.
There are countless reasons why your partner might feel that a promise ring is the right next step for your relationship. Financial concerns are one really common reason that couples sometimes start with a promise ring, and then save money as aggressively as possible for a nicer ring—or the money they’ll need to cover other early expenses as they start a life together.
I started dating the woman that later became my wife during my Sophomore year at college. I felt financially unprepared at that time for marriage and still had A LOT studying ahead of me at the time.
We met during the summer and continued to date throughout the Fall. As Christmas approached, I found myself exploring the display cases at a local jeweler. I settled on a small ring—something I could afford at the time. The ring was a heart-shaped blue Sapphire mounted to a plated gold band. It was inexpensive but looked nice.
I was nervous to give it to her. I didn’t want to scare her away by coming on too strong, but I also wanted to communicate the evolving nature of the relationship. Her home was thousands of miles from mine while we were away from school. I liked the idea of giving her a physical reminder of me and our relationship. Fortunately, she loved the ring and understood the intent behind the gift.
Sometimes the decision to present a promise ring instead of an engagement ring is more of a timing issue than a money issue. Your partner may not understand your feelings, and could be afraid of freaking you out by moving too fast. They may want to finish school or just date a little longer to ensure that marriage is likely to work well for you both (especially if you haven’t been dating very long at that point). The promise ring shows they’re thinking about you! They care for you, and want to give you a physical representation of that love and commitment.
If you feel like your partner is resisting commitment or the relationship is progressing too slowly, talk about it, but try to do it in a way that recognizes their effort and intent. Trying to see things from their perspective, and acknowledging their good intentions should lead to a more productive discussion. Best selling author Stephen R Covey taught the communication principle ‘seek first to understand—and then to be understood.’
That’s not our normal ‘knee jerk,’ or natural, way of communicating—but by making a conscious effort to approach important conversations this way, you can often achieve deeper communication, less defensiveness, and ultimately, a better mutual understanding.
Why Wear a Promise Ring?
When I was in High School, girls often wore their boyfriend’s class ring or school jacket. When you saw a girl in the hall wearing a jacket that’s 8 sizes too large, or an oversized ring with yarn wrapped around the band to help it fit, that was a visible sign that they were in a relationship.
Engagement rings, wedding rings, and promise rings aren’t oversized like those old class rings that girls used to so proudly wear, but they’re still a visible symbol of a relationship. As I’ve mentioned, that symbol serves three major purposes for people in relationships:
- To remind the wearer of their partner and the value of their relationship
- To remind the wearer of the commitment they made to their partner.
- To visibly broadcast the fact that the wearer is in a committed relationship.
Promise rings used for other purposes can be used to remind the wearer of a special commitment to any given promise, ideal, belief or goal.
What Does a Promise Ring Mean in High School?
When promise rings are exchanged by kids in high school, it’s typically is a sign of exclusivity (they’re a couple). Sometimes promise rings are given with the sentiment that the two plan to get married when they’re old enough too, but that’s a less common implied connotation.
Another common application of promise rings in high school has to do with abstinence. Parents, or religious leaders, sometimes gift promise rings to kids as part of a commitment the kids make to maintain their virginity. We’ll talk more about this particular application of the promise ring a little later.
How to Drop Hints That You Want a Promise Ring
The best way to drop hints that you want a promise ring, is to talk about other couples that have used them and then to mention how you feel about the gesture…or ask how your partner feels about them.
Stopping by a jewelry display case (in a department store or mall for example) to admire some of the rings that could work as promise rings is another great approach. If you just admire them and then mention what that type of ring is used for, you’ll let them know that you see value in the gesture, that you’re open to it, and the kind of rings that you might like. You can have a quick exchange, like those mentioned above, in a really natural way that doesn’t sound scripted or contrived.
Someone recently asked me, “do guys know what a promise ring is, anyway?” Nope, was my simple answer. Of course, not all guys are in that boat, but I find that in most cases, it’s something that guys haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about until things get really serious, one of their friends brings it up, or you find a way to educate them on it.
Can a Girl Give a Guy a Promise Ring?
Do guys wear a promise ring, or does just the girl wear a promise ring? Instead of waiting for boyfriends to present a promise ring, some girls want to take matters into their own hands if they can. They often ask, “Is it weird to give a guy a promise ring?”
In the 1950s, the answer to that question would have been an obvious, “yes.” It was weird at the time, but things have changed over the past 70 years! While it’s far less common for the girl to present a promise ring to her boyfriend, it can, and does, happen.
I also hear people ask, “Should I give my boyfriend a promise ring if he gives on to be first?” The answer is, “it depends.” Typically, promise rings, like engagement rings, are only worn by one partner in the relationship.
After I got engaged, it was hard for me not to have a ring on my finger. I was excited about the commitment I had made, and I couldn’t understand the double standard that’s customary with those rings. Why should my Fiancée be expected to wear a ring if I wasn’t wearing one—it didn’t make any sense to me.
More-and-more guys feel the same way, and would be happy to wear a promise ring if you purchase for them. Remember, that most guys would just get a band. They can wear that ring on whichever hand and finger they prefer, so it shouldn’t look strange or make them too uncomfortable.
What Does a Promise Ring Mean From a Boyfriend?
When your boyfriend gives you a promise ring, it typically means that they want you to make a more formalized commitment to each other. The ring could be a step toward engagement in their mind. It could also be a way for them to ensure that you’re both ‘singing from the same sheet of music’ when it comes to the relationship (that you both have similar expectations for now…and the future.
What Does a Promise Ring Mean for a Girlfriend?
The promise ring meaning for her is often richer and more defined. It’s relationship progress, commitment, and even an important social signal. Rings that demonstrate deep commitment are almost always exciting news to share with roommates, parents, friends, and siblings.
Promise Rings for Couples
When you both decide to wear rings as a symbol of the commitment you have to each other, you can coordinate those rings, if you’d like, to match or complement each other.
Many high-quality, yet inexpensive rings are offered in multiple widths to accommodate the style preferences of each partner. Here’s an example of a simple and affordable ring style that I really love. A ring like this can work really well for a man or woman because a variety of widths are offered, including 2mm, 4mm, 6mm, or 8mm.
Here’s another set that I really like. Both rings are made of the famously tough metal, Tungsten Carbide—which means incredible scratch resistance! These matching bands would look equally great on a man or woman’s hand.
Ring sets like either of these can allow you BOTH to wear a matching visual representation of your inner commitment.
As I’ve mentioned several times, there are MANY different ways that promise rings can be used. The sections that follow will give you a clearer understanding of some of those common applications.
The Long-Distance Relationship Promise Ring
Remember when I talked about the ring that I purchased for my girlfriend in college? When we weren’t at the college that we attended together, it was a very long-distance relationship. The promise ring that I gave her that first Christmas was a reminder of me, and our relationship—as well as the exclusive nature of our relationship.
It’s common for college students to carry on long-distance relationships during the summer. People that get job transfers or military reassignments are also forced into long-distance relationships at times. The presentation of a promise ring can provide insight into just how committed your partner is. If they hesitate to accept the ring, it may uncover issues that you weren’t aware of, so you can get them out in the open and discuss them now—not later, when you’re hundreds, or thousands, of miles apart.
On the other hand, if your partner is excited about the ring and willing to embrace the intended commitment that it represents, you can leave with greater certainty that your relationship is on solid footing.
The Meaning of a Promise Ring From Parents
When mom or dad gives you a promise ring, it’s typically going to fall into one of two categories. The ring is either intended to symbolize their unconditional love for you, or it’s supposed to serve as a ‘chastity ring’ or ‘purity ring.’
A Chastity Ring is a physical reminder of a promise that your parents ask you to make to them, to abstain from sexual activity until you’re married (or reach some other milestone that they define as they introduce the ring). As temptations present themselves, the ring is intended to act as an anchor and support.
What is a Friendship Promise Ring?
When you have an incredibly special and unique relationship with a person that you want to recognize in a meaningful way, you can give them a promise ring—or buy a matching set so you’re both wearing coordinating or matching rings.
A friendship promise ring is a way to commit to always be there for each other. Again, it’s a continual physical reminder of the special bond that you share.
What is a Christian Promise Ring?
A Christian Promise Ring, which is sometimes also referred to by some as a ‘Catholic Promise Ring’, is just a religious-themed ring that features scripture, depictions of saints, a crucifix, or some other religious symbolism. These rings can be used to represent a wide variety of commitments, or promises, however, most often they’re used for spiritual or moral commitments.
A Christian Promise Ring might also commonly be given to a child as a chastity ring. The design theme often adds an extra layer of significance and commitment for the wearer. These rings can also be used as a reminder of other meaningful spiritual goals.
Can I Buy a Promise Ring for Myself?
Promise rings don’t always have to be gifted to you by someone else. There ARE situations where it could be helpful to buy YOURSELF a ring to commemorate an important goal or commitment that you’ve made.
A young student might buy a promise ring to mark a commitment to do WHATEVER it takes to get into medical school for example. During those times when they’re feeling discouraged with school, when thoughts of quitting cross their mind, the promise ring can remind them of their commitment and help to get them through.
A promise ring could be used to represent a commitment to a weight loss goal and a healthier way of eating. When you’re tempted and wavering, the ring could serve as a reminder, and boost your determination to fight through temptations and cravings.
Remember, that the ring can really hold any significance that you attribute to it, so your use of a promise ring (even one that you purchase for yourself), can take any form that’s meaningful in your life at the time.
What is the RIGHT Time to Get a Promise Ring?
There are no universal answers to this question—so much depends on the giver and the receiver. If you buy a promise ring for your partner too early in the relationship, it could scare certain personality types away. It’s kind of like saying, “I love you” after the first date when you still hardly know a person.
You have to read the signals of the person you’re thinking of giving the ring to in order to know when they’ll be receptive to that kind of a gesture and commitment. Some may be ready only a few weeks after meeting them, while others may take years to get there.
It’s safe to say that you probably shouldn’t spring a ring on someone after only a couple of dates—that’s way too soon for most people. Wait until you have some accumulated experiences—until the relationship has matured.
If you have any questions about how the ring might be received, it would probably be best to have a discussion about how your partner views the relationship and the stage that you’re in. Ask about the future (not marriage necessarily… but just where they see things going over the next 6 to 12 months). Hopefully, this kind of conversation will allow doubts or concerns related to the relationship, or commitment in general, to surface.
Another approach could be to talk about a friend that gave their partner a promise ring. Ask subtle questions to find out how they feel about the gesture. Because you’re talking about another couple, it should be a fairly comfortable way to gain insights about how receptive they might be if you were to present THEM with a promise ring in the future.
What Age is Too Young for a Promise Ring?
When you’re using the promise ring in non-romantic ways (between parent and child or to symbolize a commitment to important goals for example), the logic behind how soon is too soon will be different. What isn’t different—is the fact that there are no one-size-fits-all answers. Parents often wonder when a purity ring might be appropriate to give a child, for example.
Kids are all different in terms of maturity and their ability to understand and keep commitments. You’ll need to gauge the signals from your child as you interact with them to know when they’re ready to properly understand and be influenced by something symbolic—like a promise ring. It truly has more to do with maturity level and comprehension than age.
What is a Good Price for a Promise Ring?
Promise rings can run the pricing gamut from simple and affordable to extravagant and expensive. Quality rings can start at about $15. On the other end of the spectrum, fancier options might cost several thousand dollars.
The amount you spend on a promise ring, depends a lot on the preferences of the person that will be wearing the ring—and the available budget of the person buying it. Another important factor that might influence the amount that you spend, is how long the ring is expected to be used. If you plan to propose with another ring in a few months, you probably shouldn’t spend much on the, very temporary, promise ring. If you anticipate that the ring will be worn for several years, or you plan to later use it as an engagement ring, you could certainly justify spending more to get a quality, long-lasting, ring.
I’ll outline the materials and features that you can expect to find in various price ranges below.
A Promise Ring Under 200 Dollars:
If your budget allows you to purchase a promise ring that costs between $100 and $200, you should be able to find a number of options in Sterling Silver, 10k gold, and even 14k gold. If you choose gold, you’ll have the option of yellow, white, or rose gold. If you’d like stones in your ring, you can get a very small diamond or gemstone in this price range. If you’re looking for a more substantial center stone with a modest price tag, diamond simulants are your best bet. These include stones like Cubic Zirconia and Moissanite for example.
A Promise Ring Under 100 Dollars:
With a budget of $50 to $100 dollars, you’re looking at Sterling Silver, gold filled jewelry, or Platinum-plated Sterling Silver. Gold-filled rings have a very thick layer of gold on top of a Sterling Silver base-metal. These should be much more durable than most plated jewelry. Center stones in this price range will typically be simulants and man-made stones. Cubic Zirconia will be most common.
A Promise Ring Under 50 Dollars:
Rings that cost less than $50 can still be beautiful and durable. In this price range, you’ll be looking at plated rings most commonly. Plated rings typically have a relatively thin layer of gold, platinum, or rhodium on top of a base-metal. The base metal is often comprised of Sterling Silver or a Copper alloy. While the plating will eventually be worn away, it can be recoated by a jeweler at a reasonable cost as needed. Hopefully, you won’t need to ‘redip’ your ring more than every year or two.
How Much Should You Spend on a Promise Ring?
You should NEVER feel pressured to spend a certain percentage of your annual salary on something like a ring. That’s kind of like saying you should spend 2 months of your income on Christmas presents. A ring is a gift. The value of the gift isn’t in the ‘melt value’ of the metals or the resale value of the center stone—it’s in the sentimental value that the ring holds. It’s good to purchase a quality ring that your partner finds attractive, but THAT should be your aim—not society’s expectations.
The rules about the percentage of your income that you should spend on rings, like engagement rings, were created and promoted by the people that profit from your purchase—they’re completely ridiculous.
Here’s the standard, in my opinion, spend as little as possible, while still buying a ring that both you and your partner can be happy with and proud of. It doesn’t need to be worth more than the rings that all your friends are wearing…just attractive, durable—and something that stirs pleasant thoughts and feelings when you look at it.
If that’s your mode of thinking, it won’t matter what the average cost of a promise ring is for other couples, how much the latest fashion magazines say you should spend on your ring, or any other social norm related to spending expectations. You’ll care more about VALUE than VANITY, and should end up with a really attractive ring AND some significant savings.
How to Give a Promise Ring
There’s a great deal about promise rings that isn’t solidly defined by culture and tradition. One reason, is that promise rings can have such a wide variety of meanings and purposes. The MOST important thing, is to clearly communicate what you intend for the ring to mean (in terms of commitment), so they understand the context of the gift.
All other elements of the process are can be planned to make the moment special and memorable. The ring is sometimes given during a quiet conversation in a private setting, other times it might be given over dinner at a nice restaurant, for example.
Do You Kneel When Giving a Promise Ring?
While it looks romantic, you shouldn’t kneel when presenting a promise ring. That’s a well-known tradition with engagement. One of the worst things you can do is accidentally confuse your partner about what’s about to happen.
If you drop to one knee and pull out a ring box, your partner will assume you’re proposing (asking them to marry you). They’ll then likely be disappointed that you ONLY gave them a promise ring, they’ll get confused and think you ARE engaged, or they’ll freak out and get scared by the fact that you’re apparently trying to propose marriage (when it may feel too soon to them at that point). Regardless—any of those outcomes are going to be AWKWARD!
I’d suggest sitting down and starting with a little conversation. Early in the discussion, you might let them know that while you’re not ready for marriage right now, you’d like to celebrate the relationship and acknowledge your mutual commitment with a promise ring—and then speak from the heart. At that point, you can show them the ring as you tell them how important they are to you and how much you value (and are committed to) the relationship.
What is a Promise Ring Ceremony?
Promise Ring Ceremonies are events that can be very much like weddings. A couple that wishes to make a deeper commitment to each other, can invite friends and family to watch them exchange rings and vows.
Unlike a wedding ceremony, no minister needs to officiate, because marriage isn’t actually being performed. In all other senses, this type of event can feel very much like a small wedding. Some keep these events small, inviting only their closest circle of family and friends, while others turn these events into big celebrations that feel very much like weddings.
The vows that are exchanged, have typically written by each partner to express their love and commitment to the other. There are no real rules about the way people arrange those sentiments. Some people choose to recite a poem or the lyrics to a meaningful song instead of doing something more traditional.
How Long Should You Wear a Promise Ring?
The promise ring will typically continue to be worn for as long as you’re in that phase of the relationship. Those using a promise ring to symbolize a different type of goal or commitment will wear it until they’ve fulfilled the commitment or obtained the desired goal. The total span of time will vary for each individual and application—but it will typically be several months to several years.
With that in mind, it’s important to be selective about the materials that you chose for your ring. Reviews from past buyers can be really helpful, especially those that are left after owning the ring for a while, so you can get a sense for durability. Reviews are especially important for ‘plated’ rings. A plated ring is one where a precious metal, like gold or platinum, is layered over a cheaper base metal, like Silver or Copper.
Not all plated rings are bad, but you have to be very careful with the purchase. I bought this ring for my wife about a year ago. It’s honestly a beautiful ring and still looks like new. It is a plated ring, but the plating seems to be really thick. I’m curious to see how it holds up over the next few years. So far, I’m incredibly impressed. It has the look, and feel, of a MUCH more expensive ring! Most people that look at it would assume it’s a diamond ring. At less than $70, it’s hard to beat!
Not all plated rings hold up. Manufacturers sometimes try to cut corners to collect short-term profits instead of building a reputation for quality (long-term profits). I once gave my wife a very inexpensive plated ring to wear. It was a really attractive ring when it was brand new. Within 30 days, the thin Rhodium plating had completely worn off major sections of the ring, exposing a reddish-brown base metal of Copper beneath the wafer-thin coating.
My daughter recently started wearing a Rhodium plated Copper ring. On the very first day that she wore it, the ring started turning her finger green. I’m certain that within a month or so, the Rhodium would have been worn away if she had continued to wear it. The message here, is that plated rings can be inexpensive and beautiful, but you need to be SURE to buy from a manufacturer that focuses on QUALITY if you’re going to use them.
If you buy the cheapest plated ring you can find, you’ll probably have to replace it in 4 to 6 weeks. If that happens, your total cost, once all is said and done, will be higher than they would have been to purchase a higher quality ring from the start.
Sterling Silver and Stainless Steel are two inexpensive materials for promise rings that might be worth at least exploring. Gold and Platinum can also stand the test of time, but might be too expensive for some budgets. One way that you can use quality materials, but still stay on budget, is to buy thinner rings that use less gold or platinum in them.
A few examples follow. You’ll typically pay $150 to $250 for a non-plated gold or platinum option. Here’s an example of a white gold half eternity band with 15 small melee diamonds. It’s 10k white gold (not plated), and costs less than $170. This delicate White Gold ring is made of 14k gold and also features a very small diamond for less than $150. At less than $200, I think this 14k gold ring with three diamonds is a unique and beautiful option too. This infinity promise ring features 14k gold and lab diamonds for less than $240. It has rich symbolism and a beautiful design
If you’re a lowkey and casual kind of couple, that values simplicity and comfort, you could also consider a silicone ring like this one. These are lightweight, they stretch, and are extremely durable. It’s not a showpiece, but at less than $20, it certainly is comfortable and practical.
What Hand is a Promise Ring Worn On?
One of the most common questions I get about promise rings, is whether they should be worn on the left or right hand. In reality, you can do whatever makes you comfortable, but wearing it on your non-dominant hand can often help to protect the ring from some common wear and tear.
If you’re right-handed, you tend to grab things with that dominant hand. The more you pick things up with that hand, the more likely your ring is to get scratched as it comes in contact with various items during your everyday activities. That isn’t a big deal, but since you can wear a promise ring on either side, it might be a worthwhile consideration.
What Finger is a Promise Ring Worn On?
Just like you can wear your ring on either hand, you can also wear a promise ring on any of your fingers. For rings given to represent relationship commitment, and exclusivity, wearing the ring on the ‘ring finger’ of your left hand (the finger next to your ‘little finger’) could be seen as a more meaningful gesture.
It can signal deep commitment because that’s the finger others tend to check for clues on whether you’re engaged or married. Wearing your promise ring on the ring finger of your left hand is a strong signal that you’re off the market (so to speak).
Those that prefer to wear their promise ring on one of the other fingers of their left or right hand, can choose whatever’s most comfortable. ANY finger can be used. The pointer finger and middle finger are common choices. The Thumb and little finger are also sometimes chosen, but much less commonly.
Those that avoid wearing a promise ring on the ring finger of their left hand often make that choice because they DON’T want to send a signal that they’re engaged or married until they are. Part of that decision is sometimes also just the desire to save that culturally significant ring finger for their engagement and wedding rings.
What to do With a Promise Ring After a Breakup
You can give a promise ring back after breaking up if you’re on friendly terms with your ex…and want to. Otherwise, here are a few other ideas …
- Sell it on eBay
- Donate it to goodwill
- Drop it in a collection plate
- Hand it to a homeless person the next time you’re asked for change
- Toss it into a wishing well and hope for better luck next time
- Melt it down
- Try skipping it across a lake or pond
- Give it to a friend that can simply appreciate it as nice jewelry (without any emotional baggage).
Get generous or destructive if you want it gone! Parting with the ring can be therapeutic if things didn’t end well. The last thing that you want to do after ending a relationship (that’s definitely over), is hang on to mementos that pull your mind back, making it hard to reset and move on.
What to do with a Promise Ring After Engagement
If you’ve been wearing your promise ring on the ring finger of your left hand, you’ll want to move it to another finger, so your new engagement ring can occupy that finger going forward. You can continue to wear your promise ring, if you’d like on your right hand, or one of the other available fingers on your left hand.
Here’s an idea, if you don’t like the feel of a lot of rings on your hands, make a promise ring necklace. A promise ring necklace is just a simple chain, or necklace, that you run through your promise ring so you can hang it around your neck.
Guys can wear a promise ring necklace too if they’d like. Some jobs won’t allow jewelry to be worn on the hands for safety reasons. That’s often the case for jobs in manufacturing and construction. In those situations, a promise ring necklace could be the perfect alternative.
Promise rings remind us of commitments that we’ve made to others…or to ourselves. They can also visually communicate that we’ve made commitments to others. The meaning and significance that a particular promise ring holds for the giver, and the receiver, depends on what was expressed when the ring is given.
Promise rings don’t have to be fancy, or expensive, in order to have real significance! There are no universal rules in terms of how much you should spend on a promise ring, what they should look like, or when you should give them—because every couple and circumstance is a little different.