The Meaning Behind Promise Rings

two promise rings on wood

 

Traditionally, engagement rings have been seen as a promise to marry, but the last few decades have seen the rise of a different type of ring as well -- the promise ring. What do they mean? Why would you give one to someone? And how do they differ from an engagement ring?

What is a Promise Ring?

Though commonly seen as a ring symbolizing a promise of monogamous commitment to a partner, there are many types of promise rings and reasons to wear one, from suggesting a promise of a future engagement to a symbol of devotion. As a physical symbol of a relationship, it goes beyond a simple sign of a couple dating.

Promise rings can come in a variety of shapes and styles, including a plain band, a nontraditional, swirl style, a colorful gemstone band, a trendy, twisted rope ring, or his and hers matching promise rings. Though simpler than an engagement ring, the options for personalization are endless when it comes to choosing a promise ring.

What is a Promise Ring?

History of Promise Rings

Promise rings have been around since ancient times. Roman brides wore promise rings during the 2nd century BC as a symbol of a promise of marriage, since law stated that couples must wait a certain period of time from announcing an intention to marry to the ceremony itself.

Posy rings, rings featuring an engraving of a romantic poem, were popular in England from the 15th to 17th century as symbols of romantic affection and devotion, and even survive in abundance today, indicating a lasting trend as opposed to a centuries-old fad.

Posy rings faded in popularity, though, as Acrostic rings rose to prominence in the Georgian and Victorian eras. Acrostic rings spell out a word -- such as “regard” or “love”-- in gemstones and served as a token of romance between couples.

Jewelry and rings have continued to act as a promise of commitment throughout time, as with the mid-century American tradition of high school boys giving their girlfriends their pin or class ring as a sign of “going steady.”

In the last decade, as celebrities like Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers wore promise rings as symbols of their commitment to purity and chastity, promise rings have risen in popularity.

History of Promise Rings

Types of Promise Rings

  • Pre-Engagement: Couples that feel they are on the path toward engagement but are not yet ready for that commitment can symbolize their love with a promise ring as a pre-engagement ring.
  • Friendship: Just as children might make and exchange friendship bracelets, good friends occasionally exchange rings as a symbol of their promise to support each other.
  • Chastity: Many assume that a promise ring is a symbol of purity and a commitment to chastity until marriage, whether it be from a parent to a child, between a couple, or a promise you make to yourself. This type of ring was popularized by celebrities like the Jonas Brothers.
  • Monogamy: Even if not yet at a pre-engagement stage, many couples may give each other promise rings as a symbol of their monogamous commitment to each other.
  • Promise to Oneself: Many people choose to wear a promise ring as a symbol of abstinence from things other than sex, including smoking, drinking, drugs, or another type of substance abuse or negative influence. The ring is both a reminder to resist temptation and a symbol of their promise to themselves.
  • Whether it’s for a personal reason or a partner, there are many reasons to wear a promise ring and a variety of options from the simple to the jewel-encrusted to choose from.
Types of Promise Rings

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