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What Is a Promise Ring? Real Meaning, Best Styles 2022

A promise ring symbolizes the love, fidelity and commitment between a couple.

A step up from dating, it precedes the engagement ring.

A lot of people have heard of a promise ring but are not sure what it is.

What does it promise? Is it an engagement ring? Is it supposed to have a certain stone? Who gives it to whom? Can you have take-backs?

Promise ring
Image by De Beers Jewellers via Farfetch

Promise ring

But promise rings can actually be confused with other rings, and can find their meaning a bit smudged.

Therefore, we’ll answer all your questions about promise rings here, in the web’s most comprehensive guide to promise rings.

What a Promise Ring Is and Isn’t

Tiffany t true wide ring
Image via Tiffany

Tiffany t true wide ring

A promise ring is a way of taking a dating relationship to the next level. It’s a symbol of the love between the two people and an affirmation of their commitment.

It—naturally—means different things to each couple, which they decide for themselves.

Sometimes the promise ring is explicitly meant to symbolize the exclusive nature of the relationship.

However, it is sometimes given long after this is established, and many couples leave the fidelity between them unspoken.

Trinity ring
Image via Cartier

Trinity ring

A promise ring can be considered a pre-engagement ring, but usually isn’t a substitute for it. It is not a purity ring, which has to do with sexual abstinence until marriage.

That is a different kind of “promise” and because the idea of a promise is used for it, people sometimes confuse the purity ring with a promise ring.

Stop doing that!

What Kind of Ring Is a Promise Ring?

18k white gold oval ruby cathedral style engagement ring
Image via Rockher

18k white gold oval ruby cathedral style engagement ring

Many women—and some dudes—want to know if there’s a particular stone to be used in a promise ring, what is a promise ring’s required style or level of bling.

But the good news is that it’s really up to the couple. A promise ring is—if people choose to keep it this way—an individual thing for the couples themselves.

An engagement ring might be a bit more “public,” as is the wedding band, but a promise ring is personal and particular.

Sure, it’s worn around town and tells people you’re “taken,” but it reflects the specific warm (or hot) feelings a couple has.

That is why there’s no stuffy society law saying what stone it has to have, what color the band has to be and all that.

Therefore, here are some ideas and tips for choosing a style of promise ring.

The Band

Criss cross engagement ring setting with round cut diamond
Image via Adiamor

Criss cross engagement ring setting with round cut diamond

When picking out a band for a promise ring, one big pointer is to keep it simple.

There are a few different designs with some twists and turns, and in moderation this can be fine. However plain band may work just as well, because you’ll hopefully switch to an engagement ring later.

That will give you a chance to go fancier. Always be planning ahead!

As for the metal to use:

For Promise Ring Gold May Be the Best Choice.

Narrow diamond ring gold
Image via Tiffany

Narrow diamond ring gold

One thing to consider is what is a promise ring’s purpose.

A lot of people wish to wear the ring every day to show off their relationship, including ones that are friendships or something other than a “traditional” romance.

One great thing about gold is that it gives you some durability for frequent wear.

A 9k option could be affordable for many folks, and you can choose white, yellow, or rose.

Platinum Is Another Smooth Option.

Narrow diamond ring platinium
Image via Tiffany

Narrow diamond ring platinium

It is the most tough and durable metal for bands and that’s great for day-to-day promise ring wear.

It would be our top recommendation for sure if not for how expensive it is.

Silver is very affordable, yet easily scratched, so it may not be best for everyday wear. At the very least, the wearer would have to baby it and take good care of it.

Keep in mind, though, that there’s so much individuality and funkiness to promise rings. You may go with titanium, or even wood grain or leather.

It’s all about commemorating your particular relationship, so don’t shy away from something creative.

The Style

There are some pre-designed styles out there that work well for promise rings. Here are a few:

Promise Ring Modern Style: Trilogy

Dainty round 3 stone engagement ring setting
Image via Adiamor

Dainty round 3 stone engagement ring setting

This pretty style involves three diamonds or other gems side-by-side.

What is a promise ring if not a type of story?

And this style tells a story, since the three stones are metaphors for the past, present, and future of the loving relationship.

Solitaire

Classic solitaire setting
Image via Adiamor

Classic solitaire setting

Don’t let the name fool you—while the idea of being solitary might seem a little scary for a promise ring, it’s just a word.

It just means there’s one stone, and it’s popular due to its simplicity and elegance.

Promise Ring With Diamond Cluster

Baguette and pave engagement setting
Image via Adiamor

Baguette and pave engagement setting

This spunky ring puts a few tiny stones all in a cluster.

The trick is that this setup is less expensive than a solitary diamond, but arguably no less posh and lovely.

The Gemstone

Your choice of gem for the promise ring should revolve around what is important to you.

What is it you’re going for with the promise ring? It doesn’t have to be a diamond.

Emerald cut sapphire diamond promise ring
Image via Ritani

Emerald cut sapphire diamond promise ring

One approach is to go with your birthstone, the birthstone of the month the two of you met, etc.

That said, it is also pretty important to consider the toughness of the stone, since, again, it’s all about frequent wear.

Stones like ruby, amethyst, sapphire, and pink topaz are ideal.

Quartz and emerald should just have the toughness to stand up to frequent wear as well.

What Is the Best Way to Give a Promise Ring to Someone?

Questions abound about the etiquette or “best practices” surrounding promise rings. They are mysterious!

We all know the old tradition of a dude kneeling down to offer the engagement ring and propose marriage.

Sometimes it’s done differently, but it gives people an idea.

Wedding proposal
Image by Matheus Ferrero via Unsplash

Wedding proposal

As for the promise ring, as with anything, it’s all about you and your partner.

You know what feels right. But since you’re asking: it’s important to be clear about intentions.

You have to identify the ring as a promise ring and not, say, an engagement ring.

Now, you can try to find as cute, light-hearted, or creative way to clarify, but be sure ya do.

Do not give the ring too early in a relationship.

Treat it like a pre-engagement ring.

One thing about giving a promise ring is that it can be touching to your lover and can enhance the trust between you. It can also strengthen your bond.

That is why it can be important to give one rather than just waiting for the engagement stage.

Because of this, you have to be committing to a very long-term relationship and are signaling true love.

Wedding proposal
Image by Dylan Sauerwein via Unsplash

Wedding proposal

Both parties should understand that this is not the same as an engagement ring, and should be able to make a space for the sweet gesture that is the promise ring.

It can be a true promise without being anything it is not.

What Is the Promise Ring Finger?

Ring on finger
Image by Alekon Pictures via Unsplash

Ring on finger

The standard or most common finger for a promise ring is the ring finger, on the right hand before you get married, then on the left after the wedding.

But, since a promise ring is your own thing, feel free to do your own thing with it.

Do Guys Wear Promise Rings?

Absolutely. Sometimes the man will initiate the rings being worn by the couple, and both will wear one.

Sometimes the lady gives the promise ring to the man. In a heterosexual couple, the rings the two wear probably won’t be identical, but could echo one another in material and color.

2 men wedding
Image via Jordan Jack

2 men wedding

It’s common to see a slightly masculine promise ring for men, often from tungsten or stainless steel.

Often they are without stones but sure don’t have to be.

History of Promise Rings

Rings to symbolize love and devotion, as distinct from wedding or engagement rings, date back roughly 400 years.

We know that in late-16th Century England, lovers gave each other versions of promise rings that had little lines from romantic poetry inscribed on them, and were called posy rings.

18th century gold posy ring my love shall last til life be past
Image via Butter Lane Antiquities

18th century gold posy ring my love shall last til life be past

Later, people used a strange method called Acrostic rings.

Acrostics are little language gimmicks in which the first letter of words arranged vertically spell out a message. With acrostic rings, the first letter of a gem placed next to another gem would spell out a word, such as the name of the intended wearer, etc.

Sometimes promise rings were a bit more practical, literally meant to fill in until a more expensive engagement ring could take its place.

As is often the case, over time, things take on a broader significance and are used in a wider variety of ways.

We think that the main meaning of promise rings is to do something special for your special someone—and for yourself.

The idea isn’t to fulfill an obligation, to impress anyone, or to cost yourself more money than you can afford.

Instead, it’s to show everyone that you don’t have to be engaged to have a ring commemorating your awesome romance.

They can come in any shape or size, and should definitely be individualized for the two of you.