The Meaning of Promise Rings: What are Promise Rings
The answer to the question “what is a Promise Ring?” has had different meanings over the centuries, depending on when the question was asked. Nowadays, there are so many different types of promise rings: promise rings for girlfriends, promises rings for guys, not to mention claddagh rings, friendship rings and purity rings.
It is therefore quite natural to ask what is a Promise Ring?
In principle, a Promise Ring is a symbol of commitment, a sign that you are serious about your relationship …. but not yet ready to get engaged.
However, wearing a ring can also signify other forms of commitment: a symbol of chastity and purity, of loyalty and friendship; as well as a promise to be faithful and true to the one you love. So we give a summary of the meaning of Promise Rings below.
Romantic promise rings: a symbol of the love between two people and a commitment to stay true to each other as their love grows.
Friendship rings, loyalty rings: a way of expressing an attachment between very close friends.
Purity rings, chastity ring, abstinence ring: typically accompanied by a vow to practice abstinence until marriage.
True love waits rings: showing support for sexual abstinence outside marriage. Similar to a purity or chastity ring as above.
Claddagh ring: a traditional Irish ring with a unique design which represents love, loyalty and friendship; originally a betrothal and engagement ring.
Poesy or posie ring: gold rings with a short inscription on their surface, popular during the 15th-17th centuries in both England and France as lover’s gifts.
Faith rings, christian rings, religious rings: worn by both men and women to symbolize a commitment to God. It can also symbolize a promise to keep oneself pure and holy until marriage.
Nowadays, there is a wide variety of Promise Rings available from which to choose; they come in a range of designs, in gold and silver and using the full range of gemstones. There are heart rings, infinity rings, flower rings, knot rings …. you are really spoilt for choice.
If you are looking to impress your loved one, why not choose a ring that features his/her birthstone – a birthstone ring. See our pages on birthstones, birthstone rings and their meanings.
A (Romantic) Promise Ring may be given by someone to the person he/she loves after the two of them have mutually declared their feelings for each other. They exchange promise rings as a commitment to stay true to each other.
A Promise Ring may also be given by the man alone, when he believes that his girlfriend cares about him as much as he does her and wishes to make these feelings known.
Romantic Promise Rings today – their meaning:
For some couples, a Promise Ring may signify that they have agreed that they will eventually marry.
Or, a Promise Ring may simply represent an agreement between the couple that they will not date anyone else while they see how their relationship develops.
A Promise Ring can also act as a temporary engagement ring in situations where the guy cannot afford the ideal ring but wants to be able to make a symbolic gesture of his commitment to marry. Promise rings are generally far less expensive than engagement rings and can provide a very acceptable temporary solution.
Sometimes, couples choose to wear a Promise Ring prior to moving in to live with each other; it provides them with a ritual to symbolize their commitment.
A Romantic Promise Ring can mean whatever you want it to mean …
… but be sure to define and agree what you are promising.If you are planning to give your girlfriend (or boyfriend) a Promise Ring – or considering buying matching Promise Rings – it is important that you define precisely what you are both promising.
And, of course, if you want help choosing just the right ring … one that will WOW! your girl/boyfriend and not break the bank … browse through our Promise Ring selection. We have carefully picked out Promise Rings that we think are special … but are also affordable. If you want to push the boat out a little and spend a little more, there are Promise Rings for that too.
A little bit of history …..
The common denominator over time has been that a Promise Ring has always been a sign of commitment, usually – but not always – associated with marriage. Promise rings have therefore been around in one form or another for hundreds of years – as long as there have been betrothals. And betrothals are mentioned in the bible.
For many years – until replaced by the Engagement Ring – the Promise Ring was a formal, outward symbol of commitment to marriage from one family to another or one individual to another. This was the situation for centuries.
Engagement Rings started to replace Promise Rings in the 18th and 19th centuries as a symbol of commitment. From then on, the popularity of promise rings declined steadily. In the latter half of the 20th Century, starting in the 1950s and 1960s, they started to reappear.
It became common for boys to give their girlfriends a ring, fraternity pin or some other emblem that meant there was a commitment to date each other and no-one else. It was during this time that the term “promise ring” was adopted.
Promise rings are not betrothal or engagement rings:
Whilst it is interesting to make comparisons between historical betrothals, Betrothal Rings and current day Promise Rings, there are significant differences – the main one being that, historically, betrothals were primarily about women as property. A betrothal was commonly an agreement made in the interests of the family, to safeguard property, strengthen bonds between families and other strategic reasons.
Historically (and particularly) in royal and wealthy families, many betrothals occurred when the couple were only children, as strategic planning for the future. As such, betrothals and marriages were not about love and feelings but about a business transaction between families. For this reason a betrothal was more like an engagement, where a fixed agreement had been made.
Other types of Promise Rings
A promise ring is a visible symbol of a commitment. As such rings are often worn and exchanged for reasons other than romantic love. The commitment can be to another single person, to a cause or to oneself.
Purity Rings, Chastity Rings and True Love Waits Rings:
Purity rings, also called Chastity Rings, Abstinence Rings and True Love Waits Rings, are worn as a sign of virginity or chastity.
They symbolize a commitment to abstain from any sexual activity until marriage and are commonly worn by teenagers; they are either bought by themselves or by a parent.
In the early 1990s, members of certain Christian and associated religious groups started to make chastity pledges and adopted the practice of wearing a ring to demonstrate this commitment. The True Love Waits Group now claims that 2.4 million young people have signed up to an abstinence pledge. The Silver Ring Thing (SRT) is a similar group, created in 1995, and dedicated to encouraging teenagers to abstain from sex until marriage.
Friendship and Loyalty Rings:
These are for platonic (non-romantic) relationships and are a way for two people – either of the same sex or opposite sex – to express loyalty and friendship to each other; each one promising to support their friend in both good and bad.
These rings are therefore used to represent a close relationship that has no romanic undertones. They are often sold in pairs and worn by two people to denote their appreciation and unconditional support for each other.
In some societies friendship rings are also used to signify that the wearer is a non-blood brother or sister ….. someone who is as close as a brother/sister but is not related by blood.
Irish Claddagh Rings are traditionally associated with love but couples are now using them more and more to symbolize friendship. As such they form another type of Promise Ring, where the meaning of is not always obvious.
Traditionally, the Irish Claddagh ring has a unique design which represents love, loyalty and friendship: the hands represent friendship; the heart represents love; a crown represents loyalty. In some Claddagh rings, the crown is missing and the design is slightly different; these are Fenian Claddagh Rings.
The design and customs associated with the Claddagh Ring go back to the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, just outside Galway. The Claddagh Ring was first produced around the 17th century and Galway has produced Claddagh rings continuously since at least 1700. The name “Claddagh Ring” was first adopted in the mid 19th century.
There are customs associated with the wearing of traditional Irish Claddagh Rings: depending on the way the ring is worn, the wearer signifies their relationship and marital status. See a fuller description here.
Religious and Faith Rings:
These are worn by followers of a particular religion to symbolize their faith and commitment to God. They are also sometimes worn as a demonstration by the wearer of a commitment to keep themselves pure and chaste until marriage. Usually, they are simple bands but are sometimes engraved or display a religious symbol.
Recently, the design of Faith Rings has tended to incorporate more intricate and more dramatic religious symbols.
Posey (Posie) Rings:
These were common in Europe in the 15th to 17th centuries. Posey Rings were simple gold bands engraved on the outside (or inside) with a brief sentiment – a promise, a poem, the lyrics of a romantic song.
Posey Rings were used as a lovers’ token, using Norman French, Latin and English to express the desired sentiment.
A recent trend is the giving of Journey Rings. A Journey Ring is a symbolic piece of jewelry that can symbolize many things but usually a relationship status of some kind. It is called a “Journey Ring” because it starts out small and gradually gets bigger in size. Either new gemstones (often diamonds) are added or additional stackable rings are bought to create a more dramatic effect.
All of this symbolizes the way a relationship matures and develops over time.
All these Promise Rings are worn as a demonstration and a symbol of a commitment. The commitment itself can represent any kind of promise – to oneself, to an an idea, to an institution or to another individual. The promise ring meaning is usually a private thing and not always clear to a casual observer.
The term “Promise Ring“ has a variety of meanings depending on the context – and the individual. The only thing one can be sure of is that such a ring is designed to be an outward symbol of a commitment and a promise; the nature of that promise and the meaning of the promise ring is not always clear.