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Promise of Love: What is a Promise Ring?

by Willyou.net * Nov 14, 2021

Key Takeaways

  • Promise rings are a little more open to interpretation than an engagement ring or wedding band, but they are often worn on the same finger (at least until the fully-fledged proposal takes place).
  • Promise rings tend to be used when the couple are not ready to be engaged, usually as a result of financial restrictions, but want to solidify their commitment.
  • You don’t need to get down on one knee to give a promise ring. In fact, it can be better to think up an entirely new tradition for this ring, so that their separate significance is kept intact and special.
semi precious stone ring

One thing that any couple will attest to is that relationships don’t follow a roadmap. Another is that commitment comes in many forms, and you can’t control at what point you decide you’re ready to make plans that will last you the rest of your lives together. 

One of the most meaningful ways to represent this side of love is through giving a promise ring to your partner, whether you are months or years away from planning a more official proposal.

Still, the what, when, and why of promise rings are not as well-known as they are for other pieces of life-altering jewelry, so here’s what you need to know.

The Meaning

Promise rings are not talked about anywhere near as much as engagement rings. They signify a different moment altogether – and one that will inevitably vary from one starry eyed couple to the next. 

What is a Promise Ring?

A promise ring is used as a symbol of love and commitment and, most importantly, a serious intention to one day propose to (and, of course, marry) your partner.

Unlike the engagement ring, the ‘promise’ of this ring is one made for the future, rather than the present.

The expectation is not that your partner will jump to planning the wedding or spreading the word among family and friends. In fact, the promise ring is regarded as a much more personal gift – and one that generates much less buzz than the actual proposal and engagement.

What ‘Stage’ is the Promise Ring?

For some, the promise ring represents a milestone early on in the relationship – something that follows relatively shortly after the first exchange of ‘I love you’. For others, the promise ring is a more definitive sign of commitment – and perhaps one that is used until the couple are financially stable enough to afford an engagement ring – and wedding.

For this reason, some couples will already be living together when the promise ring is given, while some couples will be much earlier on in their relationships. It may be that you want to finish your studies before getting engaged, make a down payment on your future family home, or further your career more before you make such a big financial commitment.

Unlike an engagement ring or wedding ring, the promise ring is much more open to interpretation. Its meaning can be completed by the couple, and doesn’t need to wait for a certain moment or milestone in the relationship.

How Serious is a Promise Ring?

It’s pretty serious, but not in the same way that an engagement or wedding ring is.

There’s no skirting around the fact that many couples choose not to go down the promise ring route. For one thing, the fact that their meaning is open to interpretation means that some couples simply don’t get them. Many couples are also happy just to skip right ahead to the engagement. It’s all down to preference.

If you are planning on giving a promise ring, however, the important thing is to give it with intent. This has the potential to be a significant moment in your relationship, regardless of how many other couples partake in the tradition.

How do You Properly Give a Promise Ring?

There’s no right or wrong way, but general advice is to avoid the same ritual we reserve for a proposal.

In short: don’t get down on one knee – not unless you want to instantly put thoughts of wedding bells into her head.

The promise ring may hold similar connotations to the engagement ring, but you don’t want to let the two overlap, or you might risk taking a little of the significance out of both.

Treat it as a separate occasion and, as we mentioned above, consider making it more intimate, rather than a flashy affair with families, fireworks, photographers and, of course, the famous stance.

What Finger Should You Wear a Promise Ring on?

We’d recommend any finger except the left ring finger, or it will be confused for an engagement ring.

After getting engaged, some women choose to wear their promise ring on a chain around their neck instead – or simply keep it as a special piece of jewelry.

The Design

Nobody wants the promise ring to be confused with – or a rival to – a future engagement ring, but its significance needs to be reflected in a suitably beautiful and valuable piece of jewelry that will last the rest of your lives together.

What Should a Promise Ring Look Like?

Promise rings are not intended to be anywhere near as big or eye-catching as engagement rings. Featuring precious gemstones like diamonds within these rings is very popular, since they are so symbolically tied to commitment and romance, but we’d recommend sticking to the more subtle sizes and designs.

There’s no need for you to avoid any of the same basic (or not-so-basic) elements of the engagement ring and other bridal jewelry – after all, you’re not trying to actively downplay the significance of this ring.

The average carat weight for a diamond engagement ring in the US is around 1, so why not consider going for a smaller diamond for your promise ring – one that is a lot more subtle, but still offers the ultra-romantic, ultra-meaningful sparkle of diamond?

Remember that your partner will one day have an engagement ring to add her to collection, so you’ll want your choice of design to be versatile enough to complement that momentous piece of jewelry.

Consider a small, flush set diamond ring – something that will stack alongside her other jewelry – or a striking diamond cluster that will offer plenty of sparkle, without being confused for an engagement ring.

Pay careful attention to your choice of metal. Gold and platinum both offer very different vibes, and you’ll want it to suit her existing jewelry collection – and, of course, the pieces she adds in the future.

How Much Should You Spend on a Promise Ring?

There’s no specific limit. For a ring featuring a small diamond or cluster of melee diamonds, we’d recommend you budget around $1,000 – or more, if your vision is a little grander.

The good news is there is far less expectation surrounding the promise ring than there is the engagement ring – both in terms of the design, and the cost.

Keep in mind that you’ll want this piece of jewelry to last for many decades to come. It marks a very important milestone, and needs to be well-crafted from quality materials in order to do so.

For that, you’ll need a jeweler who will be able to work out the logistics of your design, and create something that is perfect for this very moment. Plenty of websites offer their own spin on the promise ring, but these come at a premium cost because of the fact that they offer a fast and convenient answer to the questions, ‘What exactly does an engagement ring look like?’

Our advice? Reach out to a reputable local jeweler, even if you haven’t got many ideas of your own yet.