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  • Writer's pictureSamantha May Lee

What is a Promise Ring and how is it different from an Engagement Ring?

Engagement rings are a visual representation to communicate that the person wearing it is "off the market" and preparation for a wedding is on the way. It also reminds the wearer of her or his commitment to honor their future spouse. Engagement rings are usually only given to one partner, commonly the women.

In short, an engagement ring has one specific cultural is to convey that the giver has the intention to marry the person he or she gave the ring to and nothing else. A promise ring on the other hand can have a wide range of meaning and can be worn by all parties involved.

* Promise rings could be a ‘pre-engagement’ promise. Both partners could wear promise rings that symbolizes their commitment to be in a monogamous relationship. Couples sometimes want to get married, but recognize that their current situation is not the most ideal to make a serious commitment. They may be too young, too broke, or too busy to get engaged or they may be in a temporary long distance relationship as many business men are stationed in another state or country for a period of time or military personnel deployed on an assignment. They may not be ready to actively start planning for a wedding, but they do want to communicate their intent to marry at some point in the future and a promise ring is an appropriate gift to leave their loved for the time being.

* A symbol of unconditional love. Parents sometimes gift their child or children a promise ring to serve as a constant reminder of their presence and unconditional love. I know of a terminally ill mother who gave all her children a uniquely designed promise ring to remind them that even though they may no longer see her physically, she continues to reside in their hearts and she is only a whisper away when they need her support. It could also be given to children as a testimony to their parents love regardless of who they are without condition.

* Promise rings can be a symbol of a special bond. BFFs or clique groups give each other promise rings as a declaration of support for one another. It is saying that you have each other’s backs or you share a common goal, common interest or a member of a special group.

* Promise rings as purity rings. Remember the Jonas brother's purity pact and publicly announced their personal commitments to remain celibate before marriage? All three of them wore the same pinky promise rings. It is a visual reminder to their fans of their vow and a reminder to themselves of the commitment that they want keep.

* Personal Promise Rings (PPR). Promise rings doesn't need to be from someone. A person can buy a promise ring as a reminder or a representation of a commitment to one's self. It could be an important goal, a reminder to keep calm or to keep from straying away from sobriety.

Be careful when giving someone a promise ring though. Be sure to start with a conversation and convey what it is for before pulling out a ring box out of your pocket so that you don't give your girlfriend or even your friend a roller coaster of emotions. Most people are going to think a marriage proposal is about to happen when you pull out a ring box and you don't want a disappointed look on your girlfriend's face after she finds out what the ring meant or see the horror and confusion on your friend's face when you give him/her or them a ring.

What do Promise Rings Look Like?

While there are no rules when it comes to the designs of promise rings, they are generally kept simple and less expensive than an engagement ring. Pre-engagement promise rings' center stone should not be larger than if you were to buy an engagement ring. Since diamond is the stone that is most commonly used for engagement rings, Moissanite is the perfect stone to use for promise rings as they are more moderately priced, are available in wide array of colors and is the most durable gemstone only second to diamond. A more economical base metals such as sterling silver, gold vermeil or gold filled metals are commonly used though you should consider the fact that a promise ring could be worn just as long if not longer than an engagement ring so investing in a solid gold shank might be your best choice as it is far more valuable. Women who receive a promise ring prior to getting engaged usually continue to wear their promise ring on another finger (usually the opposite hand or worn as a pendant). Choose your base metal depending on what the promise ring symbolizes. Click here to view some examples of a friendship promise rings.

Which finger should I use to wear a promise ring?

For pre-engagement promise rings, some women wear it on their left ring finger like an engagement ring, but since the stones are usually small, it is not assumed as an engagement ring by others. I've seen some women wear it on their right ring fingers too. For friendship and PPRs, most people wear it on the forefinger of either hand.

Can I give a Promise Ring to a Man?

Promise Rings, similar to engagement rings, are commonly given and worn by women but men can absolutely wear them too! It would even carry more meaning and strengthen the commitment if both or all parties are reminded of the pact that they promise to keep.

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