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Everything You Need to Know About Promise Rings

As you may know, engagement rings and wedding rings are traditionally worn on the fourth finger of the left hand because there's a vein within the finger that runs straight to the heart. Their presence on the hand is a comfort, and their circular shape stands for a love without end. Evidence shows that thousands of years ago, ancient Egyptians gave their brides rings to symbolize immortal love, and sometime later Roman men would use the presenting of rings to women as a sign of ownership. Wedding rings and engagement bands have been around for centuries, but what about promise rings?

Everything You Need to Know About Promise Rings

When did the idea of promise rings first arise, how are they any different than engagement rings, and what is the proper etiquette for promise rings? From all the romantics at Mountz Jewelers, we would love to explore this rich history with you!

What Is a Promise Ring?

To some people, promise rings might seem superfluous or unnecessary. If you're going to get engaged anyway, why invent a step between dating and betrothed? Why not skip that step entirely and move straight to the engagement ring? Promise rings are a symbol of commitment or devotion between couples. Think of them as a token of love, much like the days when high school boys would give their girlfriends their class rings. It shows that you are exclusively dating, and it's a way to express your passion when words fall short.

A Promise Ring is a Symbol

Taking the plunge and investing in a promise ring has a deeper meaning behind it than simply updating your relationship status on Facebook. A promise ring is a physical symbol of a romantic connection, a sign that you're promising yourselves to each other. It could hold the underlying pledge that you will always be faithful to each other, make better choices for one another, or make sacrifices for the good of the relationship.

Some people use promise rings to share that engagement is in their future. For whatever reason — whether it is furthering their education, building up their finances, or simply that they're too young — they are not ready to commit to marriage at the moment, but they know it's something they want eventually.

Others who exchange promise rings have no intention of ever getting married. They may think the concept is archaic or that they don't want to be tied down for their entire lives, but they still want a symbol of their current relationship's significance. That's perfectly okay as well! We all have our own views on love and dating, and some people simply want to take their relationship for what it is — no more, no less.

The Origin of Promise Rings

The idea of giving a ring as a promise of love and affection wasn't pulled out of thin air by young people of today.  It actually dates pretty far back. While not as old as wedding rings or engagement rings, promise rings that match our modern definition appeared as early as 1576.
Modern Promise Rings

One type of promise ring was called a posy ring, which originated in England in the 16th century. They were named as such because they were engraved with lines from romantic poems or other short messages. Some examples of inscriptions on discovered posy rings are "united hearts death only parts" and "let us share in joy and care."

A couple centuries later, during the Georgian and Victorian eras, acrostic rings became popular. The gemstones in these rings were arranged to spell out words, like a secret message. For instance, putting lapis, opal, verdelite, and emerald together on a ring spells the word "love" — the first letter of each stone's name creates the acrostic.

If a couple was not in the best place financially to buy a home or start a family, they would display their intentions of marriage with a promise ring. Also, if a man could not afford an engagement ring, he would offer his companion a promise ring as a placeholder. Women did not start giving promise rings to men until around the 20th century.

Other Meanings Behind Promise Rings

Many people nowadays ascribe whatever meaning they want to promise rings. For instance, some women give promise rings to their friends to indicate their platonic bond with each other. This is much like weaving together friendship bracelets or buying half-heart necklaces with a close friend. You could even purchase a promise ring for yourself that holds personal significance. It could be something that provides a gentle nudge about an aspiration or goal, a symbol of your religious beliefs, something that commemorates an important event, or a celebration of a certain achievement — the options are endless! Though promise rings can serve whatever purpose you desire, most often they are used as a promise of romantic love or a pre-engagement ring.

How Do Promise Rings Differ From Purity Rings?

Some people use the terms "promise ring" and "purity ring" interchangeably, but they're different. Purity rings, or chastity rings, have a different history and motivation behind them than promise rings. The trend of purity rings arose in the 1990s, and they are largely associated with religious groups. They are meant to be a symbol of remaining abstinent until marriage. Typically, purity rings are presented to daughters by their parents, or the wearer purchases the ring for themselves. Then, traditionally, the purity ring is replaced with a wedding band on the day of their marriage.

What Type of Promise Ring Should You Get?

It can be difficult to decide what kind of promise ring best suits your needs. The decision hinges on many factors, such as the nature of your relationship, your budget, and your individual style. These should all be kept in mind while you browse. If you view your promise ring as not only a romantic symbol but also a fashion piece, there's no limit to your options.

A few common choices are a birthstone ring or a mosaic of gemstones. These make a statement, showcase your personality, and have a deeper meaning for your relationship. Popular promise rings for her feature heart shapes or infinity symbols.

When it comes to choosing a bit of sparkle for her finger, it's nice to find something that has both romantic connotations and a sense of feminine beauty. Hearts and infinity signs are timelessly elegant, as well as a great way to symbolize your eternal love and devotion.

Heart and Infinity Symbols

Rings with intertwined designs, such as two-tone or three-tone gold rings, work well for either him or her. After all, if you're seeking a symbol for your unity, you probably don't want part of the pair to be left out. Promise rings for him may have a modern twist design, or they could be something more subtle and classic like a silver gemstone ring. You could trust your instincts or leave it to him to decide.

One unique idea for a promise ring is a traditional Irish Claddagh ring. The design of a Claddagh ring represents love, loyalty, and friendship. Something else to consider is having your promise ring inscribed. Picking out a phrase that represents your commitment and engraving it inside can be extremely meaningful.

However, if you like the concept of eventually building onto the promise ring when you get engaged or married, you need to think a bit differently. You should shift your mindset to looking for a versatile design that lends itself to becoming a bigger piece. For example, you could customize it by adding another band. With this in mind, try to keep things simple. As mentioned before, it's totally acceptable to get a promise ring in sterling silver. If you have the means to splurge, a gold promise ring or a stackable ring with diamonds or other precious stones is also completely okay. There are no strict rules for how expensive the ring should be, but there's nothing wrong with spending less than you would on an engagement ring.

Promise Ring Etiquette

Though many may downplay the significance of promise rings, they should not be given lightly. Rather, they should be taken seriously by a genuinely committed couple who knows they want a future together in some capacity. There's no definitive promise ring etiquette, but here are some rough guidelines you could follow:
  • You and your significant other should have been dating at least a year, if not longer, before a promise ring becomes an appropriate gift.
  • A promise ring might be ideal if a proper engagement ring isn't currently within your budget.
  • If you want a way to show your partner how serious you are about being with them and where the relationship is heading, the answer could be a promise ring.
  • Promise rings often come into play when, based on life circumstances, neither of you are ready to be engaged quite yet.
  • When investing in a promise ring, you should be prepared to make a bigger commitment and look for a way to outwardly express it.

As with all other matters in a relationship, communication is key when taking a meaningful step that leads to the wearing of promise rings. Both parties need to know what the rings would symbolize for their relationship, what they want for the present, and what their vision is for the union in the future.

Appropriate Gift

Once everything has been established, a promise ring could be given at any time. It could be presented on a birthday, Valentine's Day, a milestone anniversary, Christmas, or even over a candlelit dinner for two on any day of the week. All that matters is that the setting is reasonably romantic to mark the occasion.

The promise ring doesn't have to come from a fancy jewelry box while on bended knee. Yes, it's a ring with romantic connotations, but does not mean you should model things after a proposal. It isn't about the drama in the presentation. It’s about reinforcing the meaning of the ring and the intended trajectory of the relationship. Make sure to clarify in the moment that it is a promise ring and explain your intentions behind it. Do not let it be interpreted as an engagement ring and send the wrong message.

Another note about promise ring etiquette is that there's no official finger it should be worn on. If it's a romantic promise ring, it can be slipped onto whichever finger you choose. While unmarried, you can wear it on the ring finger of your left hand. You can eventually switch the finger you wear it on if you become engaged and want to continue wearing your promise ring. To avoid confusing it for an engagement ring, sometimes promise rings are worn on the middle finger of the left hand or on a chain around the neck. If the promise ring happens to be a symbol of friendship or another personal meaning, you probably shouldn’t wear it on your left ring finger.

Unfortunately, in spite of the best of intentions and the exchanging of promise rings, sometimes relationships end. Depending on the nature of the breakup, promise rings don't necessarily have to be returned. They aren't supposed to be super pricey, so they can be safely pawned, given away, or tucked in your closet as a fond memento until you meet the person you do want to marry someday.

Promise Rings for Men

Although it's not typical, there's nothing that says women can't give their boyfriends a promise ring. Historically, men were the givers, but today, gender roles are not a hard and fast rule. Many women relish the opportunity to show their beloved how they feel with this enduring symbol. The same depth of feeling and emotion that motivates a man to give a promise ring can move a girlfriend to do the same.

If you do decide to break the norm and give your boyfriend a promise ring, you may want to be sure of how he'll react. Some guys hold firmly to the idea that it's the man's job to move a relationship forward to the next step. If your boyfriend is of that old-school mindset, he may feel like you're stepping on his toes by being the one who brings a promise ring into the equation. He may even refuse the ring.

One way to avoid this awkward situation is to have a conversation ahead of time. If you know that you're both committed, ask him how he feels about the idea of promise rings. His reaction will help you gauge if he would appreciate this symbol of affection coming from you.

If you know your boyfriend doesn't want you to be the one to present a promise ring by yourself, perhaps couple's promise rings are the answer. In Korea, boyfriends and girlfriends exchange couple's promise rings at the same time. They even pick the rings out together. If you really love the idea of getting your boyfriend a ring, then purchasing them as a pair may be the perfect compromise.

Creative Ways to Give a Promise Ring

Nowadays, romantic gestures are bigger and more creative than ever. And it's not just proposals getting all the attention. All you have to do is search for proposals to see inventive ways that boyfriends and girlfriends are showing they care. Just because you're not popping the big question doesn't mean presenting a promise ring can't be just as memorable. After all, if this is the one you intend to be with forever, every occasion should be momentous.

Any special event can be marked with the giving of a promise ring. But if "ordinary" just won't cut it, here are some ideas that will help get your romantic juices flowing to create a memory that neither of you will ever forget:

  • Plan a Trip to the Great Outdoors: Whether it's sunrise at the beach, a walk under the stars or a hike to an amazing waterfall, the great outdoors can serve as the perfect backdrop to this romantic occasion.
  • Treasure Hunt: Plan the clues and tag along as your beloved tracks down their ring. You could have each puzzle take him or her to a place that's significant to your relationship, giving them a trip down memory road. Of course, the prize at the end will be you presenting a promise ring.
  • Get Musical: There's a reason why a classic serenade has been popular for centuries. Nothing quite encapsulates deep affection like a love song. Whether you write it yourself, sing along with the radio or choose a ditty that means something to both of you at the local karaoke bar, a song dedicated to your significant other can never go wrong.
  • Hidden Surprise: It's almost a cliche in movies to have a ring hidden in a glass of champagne or a dessert. But the surprise of finding a promise ring somewhere unexpected will have your boyfriend or girlfriend thrilled. Just think of a fun place like a cereal box, the bud of a bouquet or even slipped into their favorite candy. Just be sure they don't eat it!

Purchase a Promise Ring for Your Loved One Today

There's more to promise rings than meets the eye. They are a declaration of love that has been around for centuries — not a meaningless gesture prompted by infatuation. They are distinct from engagement rings and purity rings, and they're a perfect way to express your feelings when songs, letters, and love poems can't quite capture them.

Mountz Jewelers has an expansive selection of commitment rings that aren't only for weddings or engagements. Whether you're seeking out promise rings for her, or you want promise rings for men to match, you're sure to find something gorgeous in our selection. From birthstone rings to two tone gold rings to classic bands, there's something for everyone. Trust your special moments to Mountz.

Tags: Gifts, Jewelry, Men