What Are Promise Rings and What Do They Mean?


Promise rings have been around longer than you might think. Probably since the late Middle Ages according to our research; they were popular all the way back then and their popularity has been sustained to the present day. The jewelry marketplace has many beautiful designs available. Especially The Bradford Exchange.

But what is a promise ring exactly, especially in the context of this day and age?

If that is the question on your mind, please enjoy this brief explanation.

A promise ring is a symbol. Like many other kinds of rings, it stands for something. In this case, it stands for love. It doesn’t even have to be romantic love as one might suspect. It could be the love shared between friends. Or a special family bond. It is inclusive of any loving relationship. A confirmation. A promise.

So a promise ring is a declaration. A symbolic but tangible promise and commitment between two parties to continue the love that presently exists. No matter what. To witness the evolution of promise rings over the years, let’s take a look at their history.

The History of Promise Rings

The origin of promise rings dates back to the 13th century. During this time, they were referred to as “posy” rings, from the French word meaning poetry or poem. They were primarily given, from men to women, to declare undying devotion to the relationship. One of the key things that defined posy rings was their inscriptions. Many of them were engraved with dramatic proclamations of commitment like “till death do we part” or “love conquers all” to show how serious they were.

During the Georgian and Victorian eras, acrostic rings became the new version of our modern promise rings. These beautiful gemstone creations contained a secret code spelling out a special word for the wearer. The code could be cracked by taking the first letter of each gemstone in the ring to reveal the word. Words like “Love” and “Passion” were popular choices. As you might imagine, the longer the secret word, the more valuable the ring – MORE GEMS!

Today’s promise rings focus on simplicity. Graceful, unfussy bands with iconic markings like hearts or infinity symbols, or even the engraving “I Love You”. Designs that are instantly recognizable indications of love, romance, and friendship. Even symbols of geographical heritage that might bond two people together.

The Meaning of Promise Rings

In some ways, a promise ring is a blank slate. Those who wear them understand the promise or commitment because they are the ones who have ascribed the meaning and significance. But the most commonly understood meaning of promise rings is that two people have made a commitment to be exclusive.

This could be a prelude to engagement or marriage, but it doesn’t have to be. That limited meaning would preclude friendship and family love. More specifically, the exclusivity applies to a shared intention that the bond will last indefinitely, whether romantic, friendship, family or otherwise.

What’s the Difference Between a Promise Ring and an Engagement Ring?

An engagement ring has very different expectations attached to it than a promise ring does. If you are wearing an engagement ring, people know that one day you will be headed down the aisle, sharing your vows, to be united in blissful matrimony. That is a very specific thing. By contrast, a promise ring can be imbued with so many different intentions. The most specific of which is that you “promise” to take the relationship seriously.

On Which Finger Are You Supposed to Wear a Promise Ring?

The short answer to this question is: it doesn’t really matter. Again, falling into the category of making your promise ring fits into the framework of your specific commitment. However, most people wear theirs on the ring or middle finger.

Both hands are also acceptable for placement. Some may even attach it to a chain around their neck or around their wrist. If your promise ring is worn for a romantic statement, as a pre-engagement or wedding band, you might want to wear it on your left hand until the relationship moves to the next level. Then, you can easily move the ring to your right hand to make room for your engagement ring or wedding band.

Thanks so much for reading our brief survey of promise rings. Whether you already wear one, are in the market for one, or are simply fascinated by the evolution of these unique bands, we hope you enjoyed the blog.

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