How to Choose a Promise Ring

- Jan 27, 2018-

promise ring is a sign of commitment between two people. Often, it is the first token of a serious relationship that is just developing, but exchanging promise rings can equally be a symbol of a joint commitment which is not related to love.

The rise in popularity of promise rings echoes a growing trend for couples to happily cohabit and/or marry later in life. While they may not be ready or wanting to commit to marriage, a promise ring shows that their commitment does extend beyond merely sharing bills.

History of Promise Rings

The idea of giving a ring as a promise of love and affection dates back several hundred years. Posy rings—so named because they were engraved with romantic poems—date back to 16th-century England, while Acrostic rings—spelling out a word in gemstones, for example, a ruby, emerald, garnet, amethyst, ruby and diamond spelling "regard"—were popular in the Georgian and Victorian eras.

It's only in the past decade that promise rings have become a mainstream trend, largely thanks to the publicity surrounding famous owners of such rings like the Jonas brothers and Miley Cyrus.

Promise Ring Meaning Variations

Depending on the type of promise ring and how it is given, it can mean many things. The most popular promises represented by diamond and gemstone rings include:

  • Friendship: Best friends may exchange complementary or identical rings to symbolize their enduring relationship, particularly if they are moving away from one another and will not be together frequently. The ring can serve as a reminder of their friendship and their commitment to keep in touch.

  • Purity: A promise ring may be used as a tangible symbol of purity, either from a pledge to remain sexually abstinent until marriage or a promise to remain pure from undesirable influences, such as drinking, smoking, or drugs.

  • Religion: Religious promise rings can represent a commitment to a specific faith or a more specialized part of that faith, such as following a particular saint or performing a consecrated role in the church.

  • Monogamy: A promise of fidelity may be represented by a beautiful ring, whether it is exchanged between a young couple or a married couple who may have experienced an adulterous intrusion into their relationship. Gay couples may also use promise rings to pledge their monogamous commitment to one another in lieu of an engagement ring or wedding ring if they cannot legally marry.

Promise rings can also symbolize any number of other promises and commitments, such as:

  • Breaking a bad habit

  • Keeping a secret

  • Renewing a commitment to a task or lifestyle change

  • Promising to care for a new child or new family

In fact, there is no promise that cannot be represented by a carefully chosen, thoughtfully given ring. As long as both the giver and the recipient are fully aware of what the ring represents, the unending circle of that ring can symbolize the unending commitment to that promise.

Promise Ring Etiquette

It is up to you to decide what commitment your promise ring is intended to represent. Some opt to wear it as a sign of purity, as a pledge to wait until marriage. Others exchange promise rings as a sign of their ongoing commitment to each other and their relationship. They can also be appropriate for serious couples who are not yet ready to "tie the knot." 

Promise rings tend to be smaller than engagement rings but more decorative than a wedding band. Some promise rings feature gemstones or diamonds, but most are made of crystal or other affordable materials.  This is so that young people with less established careers can avoid getting into debt while purchasing their rings.

The power of a promise ring comes from wearing it at all times as testimony of your commitment. It is therefore important to choose a ring that you can wear comfortably for extended periods. Look for rings that are consistent with your personal style without being too obtrusive.

When shopping for promise rings, try to determine how long you intend to wear it. For example, a young couple planning to trade in their promise rings for engagement rings or wedding bands in the next few years might do well choosing trendier styles or more affordable options. But someone planning to wear their Promise Ring for decades should invest in a better-quality materials and a design that they will not get tired of wearing well into the future.

Choosing the Right Metal

Most promise rings are made of precious metals, and opting for a super-cheap option like nickel or steel usually ends with regrets. These metals can discolor the skin, cause irritation and wear out rapidly. Since your Promise Ring is intended to be worn all the time, such seemingly minor problems can become annoying fairly quickly.

Gold is the least irritating metal, and most people will not have any problems with a gold ring. For those who do not like the appearance of yellow gold, white or rose gold hues can also be considered. Lower karats such as 9k or 14k work are more affordable and last longer than the higher grade alloys. Gold plating is a poor choice because the the outside layer tends to be thin and wear off quickly.  "Gold-filled" rings, on the other hand, contain a minimum of 5% gold by weight. This is a significantly better than plated gold because it wears longer and is less prone to permanent damage.

Silver is another possible option, although some silver rings may cause slight discoloration on a person's skin. Platinum is a precious white metal that is sometimes used in promise rings. But it tends to be quite expensive, more so than even gold.

Titanium is an excellent choice for those who prefer light weight, including men who are wearing jewelry for the first time. Despite this lack of weight, it is incredibly strong and resilient (hence it's use for space exploration).

For more information on these and other alternative options like palladium/tungsten carbide/cobalt/etc., check out our 
Guide to Ring Metals.

Gemstones & Decorations

Promise rings are often relatively plain. Unlike solitaires, a popular style for engagement rings featuring a large diamond in a prong setting, promise ring gemstones tend to be far smaller in size. 

Diamonds, gemstones, crystals, and/or semiprecious stones can be appropriate choices depending upon the individual circumstances. Promise rings may feature a single small gem, or they may be covered with miniature gemstones to create a pave effect.

Gemstones work well for those who want to add a dash of color to their ring, but these styles can at times be rather expensive. Consider crystals if you are looking for a wider range of colors for a more affordable price.

Design & Metalwork

A promise ring need not be a just plain band of metal. Some promise rings use simple designs, like intertwined bands, to add style. Others incorporate elaborate styles such as celtic knots and organic shapes like leaves and flowers. Those wishing to indicate their religious commitment can choose from rings that feature a wide range of timeless symbols stamped into the metal or formed out of gemstones. While such designs add personality and expression to the ring appear, they also can cost a bit more than a plain band.

Shape & Profile 

Many people choose smaller rings because the narrow band and low profile are easier to wear day after day. But in fact this is more a matter of personal preference. Consider your activity level: athletes and those who spend lots of time outdoors may want a simple ring that does not get easily caught or broken. But if your personality is more flashy you might prefer a larger and more attention-grabbing promise ring. Remember to account for all of your normal daily activities when selecting a ring.

Discover the Right Band Size

If you are buying a promise ring for yourself, it is easy to find the right band size. Simply use any other ring that already fits your intended finger for comparison. Of you can visit any jewelry store to get your finger sized.

If you want to surprise your significant other with a ring, finding out their size can be far more tricky. Try to "borrow" a ring that they already wear to gauge its size. While there is some variation in sizes between a person's fingers, the difference may be slight. Remember that it is always possible to take a ring to a jeweler and have the size adjusted if necessary, and some online stores permit returns/exchanges.

Promise Ring Engraving

A promise ring is a very personal affair. An engraved message can help convey the special meaning behind the ring, especially if it is being given as a gift. The engraving might include a quote, their name or nickname, a bible verse, or even a promise.

If you are seriously considering engraving, remember that the ring must be large enough to hold the message both in terms of width & circumference. If in doubt, check with your local jeweler. Most sellers of promise rings list the dimensions , so you can cross check this against the jewelers specification to ensure that the ring is large enough.

Pick a ring that they will love

This is the most important consideration of all. By now you should have an idea of what her tastes are and the kind of jewelry she likes and wears. If you really have no idea of what she likes, then there is nothing for it but to talk to her about giving her a Promise Ring. You can then go looking at rings together and get some idea of the ones she likes. If she points out the ones she likes, you can then go back and choose one at a later date. Of course there is nothing to stop you buying the ring while you are out together … it’s just that some people like to buy such rings themselves and make a proper presentation of the Promise Ring at a time of their own choosing.

Don’t buy a ring that is an engagement ring lookalike

It is very easy for your girl to get confused and think that you are proposing. It can then become embarrassing when you then have to explain that it is (only) a Promise Ring. So choose a ring that clearly isn’t an engagement ring.

Choose a Gemstone Ring

One of the best ideas is to choose a Promise Ring with a gemstone at its heart. There is a host of precious and semi-precious gemstone rings available and a Gemstone Ring is not likely to be mistaken for an engagement ring. This means that you won’t get into the embarrassing situation described above. Gemstone rings are also less expensive than other options; they are certainly much less expensive than the traditional solitaire diamond engagement ring. You will certainly be able to find a gemstone ring to fit your budget – whatever it is.

A Birthstone Ring

An even better idea is to choose a gemstone that is her Birthstone. Choosing a Promise Ring that features her birthstone demonstrates the fact that you have given some real thought to choosing the ring. This will be much appreciated.

How to give a girl a Promise Ring

It's important to consider how to give a girl a promise ring. While it is not a sign of an official engagement, it is a sign you are devoted to being committed to her and your romantic relationship. To be sure the girl doesn't misconstrue the giving of the ring as a marriage proposal, it's best to avoid getting down on one knee, and you should be prepared to explain exactly what the ring symbolizes. Different ways to give a promise ring range from fun and spontaneous to thoughtful and romantic occasions.

Wrap It

One of the easiest ways to present a promise ring is as a gift. Wrap the ring in a pretty box and give it to your girlfriend on a traditional gift giving holiday, such as her birthday, Valentine's Day or Christmas. Make sure you're there to watch her open it, both so you can explain its significance and so that you can see her face light up when she first sees it. Promise rings also make an excellent anniversary gift. Think one year anniversary, not two week anniversary.

Go To a Romantic Locale

Got a location that you and your girlfriend consider "yours," such as the place where you first kissed or the restaurant where you had your first date. These are good settings for the presentation of a promise ring. Since you'll want the presentation to be more casual than a proposal, consider sliding her the box or slipping the ring on her finger while you talk.

Make It a Surprise

Another way to present the ring is when you're just going about your day. Slip the ring box in her purse when she's not looking or set it out on the kitchen table and wait until she notices. If you want a grander surprise, create a little scavenger hunt for her. Give her a small note that tells her the location of the next note. Have the final note explain the purpose of the ring and sit right next to the box.

Buy the Ring Together

You could also go the opposite route and let her know in advance that you plan to buy her a ring. Then you can simply go to the jewelry store together and select one. You can even select a matching ring for yourself, which is a sweet way to show the two of you are a pair.

What to Say When Presenting the Ring

There really are no wrong or right things to say. The script for how to give a girl a promise ring will be different depending on your relationship. Basically, tell your girlfriend why you decided to buy her a promise ring, focusing on your love and commitment to her. If you plan on replacing it with an engagement ring in the future, you can tell her that. If you're not sure, just explain that you pledge to be faithful to her and leave it at that.


No matter why a person wants to wear a promise ring, they are a great way to show a commitment. While the choice of a promise ring's style is completely up to the individual's choice, following some basic guidelines will result in a ring that a person can be happy to wear for as long as he or she desires.

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