Difference Between Engagement Rings and Promise Rings

Difference Between Engagement Rings And Promise Rings

A ring is undoubtedly the most well known symbol of love and commitment and there are many different types of ring which can convey these sentiments.

But there are some rings which are similar in their intent and may require a little clarification on their purpose.

We will look at the difference between engagement rings and promise rings.

While both signify a strong relationship the underlying message is subtly different.

One is a commitment to marriage and the other is not. It’s not even a commitment to living together.

An engagement ring is a symbol of the intention of a couple to marry and typically contains a gemstone such as a diamond.

A promise ring can be given for any purpose between any two people and doesn’t typically feature a gemstone.

What Is A Promise Ring?

A promise ring is a symbol of commitment much like an engagement ring.

However, a promise ring is not linked to a specific promise and can mean a number of things.

While it is still a sign of commitment it can signify anything between the two people involved.

The giver and receiver of a promise ring don’t need to be a couple, and it can also be a symbol of friendship.

Parents and children can exchange a promise ring for any reason that is significant to them.

Some people wear a promise ring as a sign of chastity and means they will wait until they are married before having a physical relationship.

These are also called purity rings and are typically worn by people who are of a certain faith that does not condone premarital sex.

The giving and receiving of a promise ring is unique to any two people and personal to their own relationship.

There may be many reasons for wearing a promise ring, but the main reason is typically as an outward symbol of a commitment to a relationship or ideal.

How Does It Differ From An Engagement Ring?

Difference Between Engagement Rings and Promise Rings

An engagement ring has a very specific purpose unlike a promise ring.

To give and receive an engagement ring is a symbol of committing yourself to the other person in a promise of marriage.

This is a tradition that goes back many centuries but did not become common until the mid 1900s.

When a man proposes marriage to a woman it is typically with an engagement ring. She is then free to either accept or decline the proposal.

If she accepts she then wears the engagement ring on the ring finger of her left hand.

This is another tradition based on the belief that a vein in that finger runs directly to the heart.

A promise ring however can be worn on any finger you wish and there are no rules about this.

Giving and receiving a promise ring does not have the same degree of tradition and expectation.

It can also be worn for many different reasons as opposed to an engagement ring which has one meaning.

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Of course a promise ring could be a precursor to an engagement ring and can be given as a sign that in the future you intend to get married.

Which Finger Do You Wear A Promise Ring On?

As a pre-engagement ring, a promise ring could be worn on the same finger as a traditional engagement ring.

There are a few reasons why you would give a promise ring as a pre-engagement ring.

You may both be too young to legally get married but want to make the same level of commitment.

Likewise you may not be financially or logistically in a position to get married right away but know that one day that is what you will want to do.

In these cases it’s fine to wear a promise ring on the ring finger of your left hand as a sign that you are intending to marry one day.

When you do finally get an engagement ring you can transfer your promise ring to the ring finger of your right hand instead.

For others a promise ring can mean many different things and this means you can wear it on pretty much any finger that you choose.

It can even be worn on a chain around your neck instead of on your hand.

Main Differences Between Engagement Rings & Promise Rings

So what are the differences between engagement rings and promise rings?

Well there are five main ways that these two types of rings differ; intent, design, price, etiquette and the manner of giving.


The intent behind the giving and receiving of an engagement ring is quite obvious and universally understood to be a proposal of marriage.

Of course, it sadly doesn’t mean that the intended marriage will definitely take place, but the intention is there.

The purpose of a promise ring is a commitment by two people to each other but can fall under a range of meanings.

If you and your partner are too young to get married, or you can’t yet afford to get married, a promise ring can be a sign of your commitment to each other.

Or perhaps you want to demonstrate how significant someone in your life is to you.

As a sign of faithfulness in a long distance relationship a promise ring is a wonderful symbol of commitment to each other.

It can also be a celebration of an anniversary or another important milestone in your relationship.

When someone wears a promise ring as a sign of abstinence it symbolizes their commitment to chastity.

Promise rings can also be a symbol of a long friendship and be a declaration of love and support to each other regardless of how often you see each other.


Most engagement rings are quite elaborate and often feature diamonds or other gemstones either on their own or as a cluster.

A promise ring is typically more simple and is often just a band with perhaps a birthstone or inscription on it.

Of course there is no set design for a promise ring, and it can really be any style that you want.

More often than not it will be made from gold, silver or platinum, but you can also have promise rings that are made of glass, ceramic, wood or silicone.

The meaning behind a promise ring will be completely personal to you and the person who gives you the ring, so the design can be practically anything you want.

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One of the most popular designs for an engagement ring is a solitaire diamond. This features one gemstone in the center of the ring.

Other styles such as the halo have a large center gemstone surrounded by other smaller gems.

Typically, an engagement ring will be a lot more elaborate in style and design than a promise ring which quite often has no gemstones at all and can be quite plain.


As engagement rings do normally feature diamonds and other gemstones they are significantly more expensive than a promise ring.

The simpler designs and lack of gemstones mean that a promise ring is typically more affordable.

This difference in price is perhaps one of the reasons why a promise ring is often used as a pre-engagement ring.

For younger people who cannot afford a diamond ring, a promise ring is still a powerful symbol of their love for each other and a mark of their commitment.

The average price of an engagement ring is around $5,000 for a diamond solitaire, but some people will spend up to $10,000 on an engagement ring.

In contrast, a promise ring will cost much less, on average less than $100.

Of course, the price that you pay for a ring should not be the most important factor.

The strength of your relationship and your degree of commitment to each other is much more significant.

There is no limit however to how much you can pay for a promise ring and of course, including gemstones is possible.

Manner Of Giving

Many men plan the moment that they propose to their partner to the smallest detail.

They will choose the time, the place and of course, the ring.

This is a big moment which will change the couple’s life forever and so needs careful consideration.

In the majority of cases, their partner will have no idea of what is going to happen and will be suitably surprised.

It can be a nerve wracking moment for many men as they are not sure if they are going to get the response that they want.

Quite often the man will get down on one knee to propose which is instantly a sign of his intention.

When giving a promise ring there is not usually any special occasion. It can be done in quite a casual manner and in any setting.

This is because there is not the same expectation associated with giving or receiving a promise ring.

If you have not discussed giving your partner a promise ring or wearing one yourself it can be a tricky situation if you suddenly produce one.

It can be misinterpreted as a proposal of marriage particularly if the ring has a gemstone. So it is important to make your intentions clear.


Traditionally an engagement ring is worn on the ring finger of the left hand as this is thought to be directly linked to the heart.

Many couples who exchange promise rings wear them on the ring finger of their right hand.

However, there is no rule about which finger a promise ring should be worn on, and a couple are free to choose to wear it on any finger.

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It is also possible to wear a promise ring on a chain around your neck if you prefer.

If the promise ring is actually a pre-engagement ring then it is acceptable to wear it on the same finger that you would wear an engagement ring on.

Once you have an engagement ring you can move it from your left hand to your right hand.

How To Choose Between An Engagement Ring & A Promise Ring

Choosing whether to give your partner an engagement ring or a promise ring is a big decision.

As we have discussed, an engagement ring is a proposal of marriage, so you should be very sure of the strength of your relationship before you go down this route.

If the relationship is less than six months old a promise ring may be more appropriate so that you can be committed to one another without the pressure of being engaged.

You may not have had important discussions yet about the future such as having kids or where to live.

An engagement ring is a good choice if you have been in a strong, committed relationship for long enough that you feel ready to make a lifelong commitment.

You and your partner know each other well and are mature enough to move forward with your relationship.

In the meantime however, a promise ring is a symbol of your commitment to each other and how strong your feelings for each other are.

Can I Use A Promise Ring As An Engagement Ring?

There may be circumstances in your life that prevent you from being engaged and so a promise ring is a good alternative until your situation changes.

This could be because of financial difficulties, health concerns or other life events.

Of course, if you want you can use a promise ring as an engagement ring.

This is about commitment and a promise ring fulfills the same role as an engagement ring in this respect.

While it may not be a diamond solitaire it can still have the same meaning to the couple.

Final Thoughts

If you are thinking of giving a ring to your partner and are not sure if it should be a promise ring or an engagement ring we hope this guide has helped you.

Make your decision based on your own situation and where you think the relationship is currently at.

Jodie Messines