Engagement VS Promise Ring – 3 Key Differences

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In modern times we have many types of rings to wear, especially those aiming to convey a romantic relationship or a commitment to oneself. One of the most newly popular romantic rings is the promise ring. This type of ring has been around for centuries, but it’s seen a surge in popularity in the past decade or so. So much so that it may sometimes be confused for an engagement ring.

If you’ve been gifted a promise ring, or intend to gift one to your romantic partner, it might be a good idea to read up on the difference between the two. You will avoid heartache and thus make your intentions very clear.

promise engagement

Engagement vs promise ring

Engagement rings always signify a couple’s intention to marry within the foreseeable future. while a promise ring is simply a physical symbol of the commitment between romantic partners. Promise rings sometimes precede an engagement ring, but this is not a rule set in stone.

Some promise rings may signify that the couple is very serious and monogamous, but does not necessarily mean their mind is on marriage just yet. There is no age limit on promise rings, though they are most commonly found in teenagers and young adults.

Promise rings have been around for centuries, and the idea of wearing a ring to show your commitment to your relationship is a very old tradition. Perhaps the most famous example of a promise ring is the claddagh ring. This is an Irish ring that symbolizes love, friendship, and loyalty. It looks like two hands(friendship) holding a heart (love), which has a crown(loyalty) on top.

The claddagh ring is a type of fede ring, which is an Ancient Roman type ring that always has the image of two hands clasped together. This meant exchanging vows, promises, pledges, and were often given as engagement or wedding rings.

As time went on, the clasped hands began to turn into interwoven designs, like Celtic knots, rope designs, two-tone metals, and other similar symbols of two people honoring their commitment to one another. Here’s a quick rundown of the key differences between engagement rings and promise rings, so everyone is clear on the matter.

Read also: Why Does White Gold Turn Yellow ?

1. Engagement rings are expected to be more expensive than promise rings

Engagement rings usually have a higher price tag, depending on your tastes, budget, and what your general style is. Compared to promise rings engagement rings will usually be more expensive, as they usually feature a diamond (though not always).

Since promise rings are usually given at an earlier stage in the relation ship than an engagement ring, it makes sense to not invest too much in the ring.

The people that do the actual browsing and buying of promise rings are generally younger (teens and young adults). They don’t have as much funds as an older adult, so they will of course spend less on a promise ring.

2. Promise rings don’t usually feature a gemstone or solitaire

One of the reasons promise rings usually cost less than engagement rings is because they don’t feature a gemstone, especially a diamond. Traditionally diamonds are reserved for engagement rings and eternity rings. Promise rings may have a gemstone but that is not the usual route people take.

Promise rings are generally simpler rings, relying on patterns or design to convey the idea of two people that are committed to each other. Common motifs in a promise rings are:

  • intertwining bands, sometimes in a two-tone metal; can look like a rope or braid design sometimes
  • two hands clasped or reaching for each other, such as cuff rings, hug rings, or claddagh rings
  • a plain band with an engraving, either on the inside or outside of the ring
  • if gemstones are present, they are usually birthstones
  • a design split between two bands, such as two halves of a heart
  • metal rings with roses, hearts, infinity symbol, a ribbon, a knot

If your promise ring does feature an expensive gem (especially if a diamond) please be sure to express to your loved one that this is a promise ring, not an engagement ring. And know that in such a case if an engagement will follow, the engagement ring is expected to be bigger or more expensive than the promise ring. An upgrade, if you will.

3. Engagement rings precede marriage, promise rings may have many meanings

While an engagement ring has a sacred meaning and is obvious to understand for everyone involved or anyone who looks at it, a promise rings is a bit confusing. This is why you should always, always be very clear with your partner when gifting them this ring. Make sure they don’t mistake it for an engagement ring, otherwise you both land in an awkward situation.

A promise ring may represent a couple’s pledge to be monogamous, but not necessarily mean they intend to marry in the next few years. It may also imply that even fi they ever drift apart, they will always come back together. Or, in some cases, it may double as a purity ring, as a promise to save their virginity for when they marry each other.

Anyone can give or wear a promise ring

There is no age, gender, or sexuality limit on a promise ring. Any two consenting persons may give or receive promise rings, even those in a non-monogamous relationship. However you define yourself or your relationship, a promise rings stays the same: you will always be there for that person, with love and respect, and possibly the intent to spend the rest of your lives together.

What finger do you wear a promise ring on ?

A promise ring can be worn on any finger, on any hand. The most common placement is the ring finger of the left hand, where an engagement would usually go. You can choose to wear your promise ring however you like, as there is no right or wrong way.

Let’s go through a few examples of promise ring styles, so you can get a better idea of what you can find available and maybe get inspired.

All the examples below (and their links) are found on Amazon. This site is an Amazon affiliate, so we may earn a small commission if you purchase any of these rings. 

First is this matching set of stainless steel bands with a very cute heart design.

Each band has half a heart engraved on it. When put together they form the whole heart, and they are a very romantic version of a promise ring. There is a masculine and a feminine ring. The masculine is grey with a black heart outline and black inside. The feminine ring is grey on the outside, with a rose gold heart outline studded with CZ, and a matching rose gold inside. You can also get custom engraving on the inside of these rings.

Another promise ring idea would be this twist rope/eternity ring.

It can be plated in 14k white, yellow, or rose gold, and features a row of white cubic zirconia. Simple, a bit dainty, and very elegant. And if an engagement were to follow, this kind of ring wouldn’t compete with the engagement ring, or the wedding band.

If you’d like something much simpler, here’s a stainless steel set you can both wear.

The premise is simple enough: a wide stainless steel band with a heart cutout, and that very same cutout is found on a thin, matching band. Your heart on your loved one’s ring. Simple, cute, and the stainless steel is definitely going to stand up to daily wear and tear with no problem.

And here is a claddagh ring to get you inspired. 

This one has a bit of a twist on the traditional claddagh ring. The hands are still clasped, holding a heart, with a crown on top, but the rest of the ring is a braid design, to drive the point home. The material is 925 sterling silver.

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