promise ring

The concept of a promise ring might seem like something completely new, but rings like these have been used as symbols of promise since ancient times. Here, we’ll take a look at the history of promise rings as well as the contemporary meaning of a promise ring and the difference between a promise ring and an engagement ring.

What is a Promise Ring

A promise ring, sometimes known as a pre-engagement ring, is a simple piece of jewelry that is given as a symbol of a committed, monogamous relationship. In some cases, the promise ring symbolizes purity and a decision to remain celibate until marriage. Various styles include yellow gold promise rings, rings with gemstones other than diamonds, rings with heart designs, and even diamond rings with stones that are not quite so impressive as the diamonds in engagement rings.

The History of Promise Rings

In ancient times, a ring was used to seal a promise, much in the same way rings of different types are used to symbolize promises today. Bishops would wear rings to symbolize their spiritual “marriage” or union with the church. In Venice, Italy, dignitaries renewed the “marriage promise” between the city and the Adriatic Sea by tossing a ring into the water once each year, on Ascension morning.

Fast-forward to the 16th and 17th centuries, and we see the precursors to today’s promise rings, which were exchanged as tokens of love of friendship. The “poesy ring” was engraved with a sentiment or promise and given to a friend or lover. Another popular style, set with uncut diamond chips, was the “scribbling ring,” which lovers would use to etch romantic vows into glass windowpanes.

The Meaning of a Promise Ring

Today, there are a few ways to describe the meaning of promise rings. Each promise ring is given as an expression of a certain promise two people have made with one another. Some of the most common promise ring meanings include:

  • Friendship: Good friends sometimes exchange promise rings that symbolize the commitment to always be there for one another.

  • Monogamy: Promise rings are often exchanged as symbols of a mutual commitment to remain monogamous while in a relationship.

  • Abstinence or Chastity: When given by a parent to a child, promise rings are also called “purity rings” and symbolize the commitment to remain celibate until marriage, as well as to remain substance-free.

  • Pre-engagement: Perhaps the most common meaning of a promise ring is the commitment to a relationship that is headed toward engagement. When you feel that your partner is the right one for you but you aren’t quite ready for marriage, a promise ring is also known as a pre-engagement ring.

Promise Rings vs. Engagement Rings

The main difference between a promise ring and an engagement ring is that an engagement ring is a symbol of your promise to marry one another.

When giving a promise ring, it’s important to be up-front about the ring’s meaning and the terms of the promise it symbolizes, particularly if the ring contains a diamond. It can be helpful to write a simple note describing the meaning of the promise ring from your point of view. Have the ring’s recipient read the ring before opening the box containing the ring. This way, there is no chance for confusion concerning the promise ring vs. engagement ring.


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