Meaning and Significance of Promise Rings

Promise ring meaning

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In recent times, promise rings have been cropping up almost everywhere, in advertisements, on celebrities, and even in day-to -day conversations. They have become as popular and well-known as traditional wedding and engagement rings.

People began to take greater notice of promise rings when they were spotted on famed celebrities like Miley Cyrus and the Jonas brothers. Since then, the interest in promise rings and their deeper meaning and significance has spiked considerably.

To clear any confusions about promise rings and to see whether they’re the right choice for you, let’s take a closer look at this special ring category below.

Origins of Promise Rings

Promise ring with knot

By Betty Jewelry Emotions. See it here.

Promise rings have been around since the time of the Romans. From the 2nd century BC, Roman brides were given such rings as a promise of marriage and would wear it until the actual ceremony.

But others claim that promise rings were a recent invention and became prevalent only from the 15th century. In these accounts, the early predecessor of promise rings, was the posy ring which featured lines of verse and poetry.

As posy rings faded from popularity, acrostic rings gained popularity in the Georgian and Victorian eras. These rings were embedded with gemstones that spelled out a name or word like REGARDS or ADORE.

The Symbolic Meaning of Promise Rings

Promise rings have various symbolic meanings. They can be defined and interpreted according to the preference of the wearer but listed below are some common characteristics of promise rings:

  • Symbol of love:  A promise ring is a tangible symbol and a pledge of love. These rings represent the love and affection that a couple feel for each other.
  • Symbol of hope: Promise rings are a symbol of hope, and they reflect a couple’s desire for a future together. Some couples wear the ring in the hope that, one day, they can formally officiate their relationship.
  • Symbol of joint commitment: Promise rings represent a couple’s commitment to each other and their relationship. These rings are a symbolic promise that two individuals will always do their best for the other, irrespective of any situation or circumstance.
  • Symbol of loyalty: As a symbol of loyalty, promise rings reflect the couple’s undying support for each other. They are an assurance that both individuals will think and act according to the wellbeing of the other.
  • Symbol of trust: Promise rings are a symbol of trust and reflect the couple’s confidence and faith in each other. This trust is based on the notion that the other is willing to do anything to keep the relationship stable and secure.
  • Symbol of togetherness: Promise rings symbolize a state of closeness, security, and belongingness. They reflect a desire for a bond that will endure through times of happiness and distress.   
  • Symbol of fidelity: Promise rings are a symbol of fidelity, trust, and honesty. Although different people define fidelity differently, all people accept that it signifies the importance of being truthful and transparent.

What is a Promise Ring?

Why gift promise ring

Promise rings to signify a stage in a relationship:

Promise rings are outward symbols of love, companionship, fidelity, trust and commitment. They are given from one person to another, or are exchanged between a couple, as a promise of loyalty, understanding and care. These rings are often the very first signs that a relationship is strong and sincere enough to be developed into the future. They reveal to the outside world that the couple are willing to be with each other, and are ready to preserve their relationship.

Promise rings as pre-engagement rings:

Promise rings are sometimes known as commitment rings or pre-engagement rings, and are commonly used as placeholders for couples who are require more time to officiate their relationship. For example, if a couple needed to talk to their parents, or decide which city to live in, they could exchange promise rings first as they took the time to sort out the logistics and timing of the next stage of their relationship.

Promise rings aren’t just for lovers:

The uniqueness of the promise ring lies in the fact that it is not restricted just to couples.  They can be worn and exchanged by those who do not believe in any formal ceremony or institution. They are especially significant for couples who don’t desire to place a singular, rigid meaning or label on their relationship.

Promise rings can also be gifted by parents to their children, or by one best friend to another, as a symbol of everlasting love, empathy, and companionship.  The versatility of the ring lies in the fact that it can be gifted to anyone, at any point in their lives, and for whatever purpose that the person sees fit.

You can also give yourself a promise ring to signify a commitment to a goal or pledge. The only rule is that the ring signifies a commitment or a promise to something.

Promise Rings vs. Engagement Rings

People often confuse promise rings for engagement rings, but while they are similar, there are significant differences between the two.

Differences in symbolism

Promise rings are usually given before marriage, and symbolize personal values such as love, trust, commitment, and loyalty. They are a thoughtful gift, exchanged between younger couples to signal important milestones in their relationship. Promise rings mean that the relationship is exclusively in the hands of the couple, without the external involvement of family or institutions.

On the other hand, engagement rings do not merely express feelings, but serve as a formal proposal for marriage. While promise rings can imply a variety of things such as an impending marriage or deep friendship, engagement rings have one single meaning – a commitment to marriage and a life-long relationship.

Differences in design

Promise rings are less flashy, and often contain small diamonds, birthstones, or simple gemstones. They can also be made with plain bands of silver or gold, without any engraving or designs. Engagement rings on the other hand, are designed to be sparkly and attract everyone’s attention. They are mostly created with a large, central diamond, surrounded by smaller stones.

Differences in purpose

The uniqueness of the promise ring lies in the fact that it can be gifted to anyone. For instance, some parents gift their children with rings to showcase their love and affection. Elderly couples at times wear these rings as a reminder of belonging and commitment.

Sometimes, promise rings are also exchanged between friends as a symbol of lifelong companionship. Engagement rings, on the other hand, are a symbol of romantic love, and can only be exchanged with a lover or a partner.

What Finger Do You Wear a Promise Ring On?

How to wear promise ring

There are no hard and fast rules about this. You can choose to wear the ring on any finger that you prefer. This is because the importance of a promise ring relates to what it symbolizes, not how you wear it.

Here are some ways to wear your promise ring:

  • Ring finger of left hand – Many choose to wear the ring on this finger as it typically symbolizes a pre-engagement. After the engagement ring is worn, the promise ring is often transferred to another finger. One issue with wearing your ring on this finger is that people may mistake it for an engagement ring. Another is that you may have to resize the ring when you change fingers.
  • Ring finger of right hand – This is a good alternative to wearing the ring on your left hand. This way, you’ll avoid any unwanted questions about whether you’ve got engaged or not. You also won’t have to resize the ring because you won’t need to change fingers.
  • Other ways to wear a promise ring – You can choose to wear your promise ring on any finger other than the ring fingers, for a more subtle approach. No one would know unless you told them. If you don’t like the feel of rings or you can’t wear rings due to the nature of your work, you can opt to wear the ring on a gold chain around your neck like a pendant. You might want to skip wearing a ring altogether and get something different, like a promise bracelet or pendant.

In Brief

Promise rings are a great way to express one’s love and dedication. Their versatility offers a plethora of opportunities to convey deep feelings and emotions. These rings are the perfect gift for those who want to express themselves without the pressure of conventionalism.

If you’re thinking of giving a promise ring, read our article on 10 ways to give a promise ring to your loved one.