Updated October 1, 2021

Promise Ring vs Engagement Ring

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How do promise rings and engagement rings work? Check out their costs, meanings, and purposes.

Promise rings and engagement rings both represent commitment and love.

However, they're usually given at different stages of the relationship. It all depends on the sentiments you want to express to your romantic partner.

Here's what you need to know before you give one to that special person.

Are promise rings bad?
Promise rings do not conjure good or bad luck. They're just a way to make a promise between two people in a relationship. Sometimes in life, promises are broken, but it's not caused by bad luck.

Is a Promise Ring the Same as an Engagement Ring? What's the Difference?

Promise rings and engagement rings are not the same. The biggest difference is that engagement rings are only given as a proposal of marriage.

Generally, one partner will ask the other partner for their hand in marriage (a marriage proposal). If they say yes, only the partner being proposed to will wear the engagement ring.

Promise rings, though, can have multiple meanings.

In most cases, promise rings are given earlier in a relationship as a promise of commitment to each other. They're usually worn by both partners.

While promise rings usually indicate a romantic relationship, there's no hard and fast rule. Promise rings may be symbolic of a special friendship, your feelings toward someone, and other personal values.

In terms of price, promise rings usually cost less and are less flashy than engagement rings.

The average cost of a promise ring is $100 - $400. On the other hand, you can expect to spend $5,500 for an engagement ring.

What does a promise ring mean?
Promise rings can represent many different values, such as:
  • Monogamy - Many couples wear promise rings as a pre-engagement ring.
  • Friendship - This representation is much less common, but friends can wear the ring as a symbol of their special bond
  • Unique promises - They can also be a sentimental reminder of a promise only the two of you know about
  • Personal values - Promise rings have fluid usages and they can hold whatever meaning you want

How Serious is a Promise Ring?

A promise ring may eventually lead to an engagement ring, but the two rings have slightly different connotations. In most cases, a couple's promise ring means that they are exclusive. They take the relationship seriously and see a future together.

Promise rings are often worn by couples who are too young to get married.

And an engagement ring is asking for someone's hand in marriage and to be together forever.

Today, promise rings are still among couples. They're not quite as fancy or expensive as engagement rings and wedding rings. That said, promise rings are significant and should not be given lightly.

Promise ring vs. Purity ring
Oftentimes, people will use the terms "promise ring" and "purity ring" interchangeably. But the two represent very different commitments.

Purity rings represent a promise of abstinence until marriage. Promise rings symbolize a commitment to one another in a serious relationship.

Does a Promise Ring Mean You're Engaged?

Promise rings can mean several things, but it does not mean you're engaged. Some couples view promise rings as a pre-engagement ring, while engagement rings are reserved for "official" marriage proposals.

Can you use a promise ring as an engagement ring?
Engagement rings and promise rings are both symbols of love and commitment. Since they're physical representations of staying together for a lifetime, some couples choose to propose with a promise ring.

How Much Do Promise Rings Cost?

Promise ring prices can vary by a lot, depending on the materials used. Promise rings could cost as little as $30 to $50 for a simple, plain band. Or they could cost a few thousand for a ring with diamonds or other gemstones.

Most people spend just a few hundred on a promise ring. The amount you should spend depends mostly on the look you're going for.

  • Less than $150. Rings at this price point are usually made of sterling silver, and may be plated in a gold or other metals. Some rings may feature gems like cubic zirconia.

  • $150 - $500. At this price range, you have more options for ring designs and materials. Rings could feature split shank bands and very small diamonds. You can even get 14K gold options.

  • $500 or more. Once you start looking at rings in the $500+ range, you'll find upgrades like larger carat diamonds and intricate band styles.

The $150 to $500 range is the sweet spot for both selection and value.

Promise Ring vs Engagement Ring Styles

The two have distinct styles and looks.

Promise rings tend to be smaller and simpler than engagement rings. The band is usually made of precious metals, such as gold and silver.

It's common to see colorful gemstones (such as birthstones) on a promise ring. And they're subtler and less extravagant, and some may resemble wedding rings.

Which finger do you wear promise rings on?
If it's between a couple, you might choose your ring finger. But it's really up to you. Promise rings have fluid meanings, so you can wear them on whichever hand or finger you'd like. You can even wear the ring on a chain as a necklace.

Engagement rings are a lot flashier, with tons of va-va-voom. There are also a lot more styles to choose from. Here are just a few popular options.

  • Solitaire - The three-prong style is reminiscent of Tiffany's and classic glamour.

  • Halo - This features a central gemstone surrounded by a "halo" of smaller diamonds to appear larger than life.

  • Three-stone - This design features a trio of gemstones to symbolize your past, present, and future together.

  • PavĂ© - The gemstones are set as close together as possible so little of the metal is shown, giving the band a super-sparkly surface.

  • Infinity - Lines of the band intertwine to symbolize a marriage that will last forever.

Should I Choose a Promise Ring or an Engagement Ring?

Every relationship is different. But here are some guidelines to determine whether you should get a promise ring or an engagement ring.

Consider getting a promise ring if:

  • You're in a committed relationship but aren't ready for marriage just yet.
  • You've been dating for less than a year.
  • You want to promise to each other to stay abstinent until marriage.

Consider getting an engagement ring if:

  • You're prepared to marry your partner.
  • You are committed to spending the rest of your life with them.
  • You've had serious conversations about your future goals (finances, children, career, etc.)

Where to Buy an Promise Ring

Most jewelry stores have a selection of small rings that are perfect as promise rings. Just like when you buy an engagement ring, you'll find better selection and prices if you shop online.

Sites like James Allen or Blue Nile are mostly known for their engagement rings. But they also sell other fine jewelry rings. You can find a simple, high quality rings with gemstones or small diamonds for $500 or less.

How to Give a Promise Ring

Ready to give someone in your life this romantic gesture? There are a few ideas on how to approach it.

  1. Share your feelings on a holiday
  2. Purchase the rings as a couple
  3. Make it a surprise
  4. Place the rings on each other's fingers in unison
  5. Wrap the ring in a jewelry box
  6. Head to a romantic locale
  7. Choose an outdoorsy area

The options are endless. And as long as you're true about your feelings, the recipient will love this romantic gesture.

What Experts Say

CreditDonkey asked relationship experts about their thoughts on promise rings, engagement rings, and more. Looking for some answers for you and your loved one? Here's what they had to say:

Bottom Line

Promise rings are usually exchanged at the beginning of a relationship, while engagement rings are given only to propose marriage. In both cases, you're giving a promise - and a commitment - to stay together with that person.

There are a million ways to commemorate these two important milestones. You just need to find the right one for you and your partner.

Amber Kong is a content specialist at CreditDonkey, a diamond jeweler comparison and reviews website. Write to Amber Kong at amber.kong@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.


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