While promise rings and engagement rings have many differences, they share a similar meaning: commitment. Although, commitment may have different meanings depending on your relationship. Most commonly, a promise ring is given first and worn by both partners. It may be given as a precursor to marriage or to symbolize personal values. No matter what you’re looking to represent with a promise ring, it can be a thoughtful gesture to show your feelings toward someone. On the other hand, engagement rings are given only when asking for someone’s hand in marriage.

If you’re not clear whether a promise ring or an engagement ring is right for your situation or how they differ in the world of traditional or simulated diamond jewelry, it’s important you learn about each to ensure you choose the right one. While promise rings are usually less flashy and often contain gemstones, engagement rings are designed to catch glances with a stunning center stone. Learn more about each style to find the perfect ring to symbolize your commitment.

Simulated diamond eternity band.

The Meaning Behind Promise Rings

What is a promise ring? Promise rings differ from engagement rings in many ways, especially the type of commitment they symbolize. While engagement rings always represent a couple’s commitment to marriage, promise rings can represent a variety of things. Whether it means you’re committed to getting engaged down the road or that you’re waiting for a special moment, each set of promise rings will contain a unique meaning to the wearers. Some promise rings even symbolize a deep-rooted friendship that you hope to carry on for years to come. So, although there may be a preconceived notion about why promise rings are worn, it may not always be so straight forward. Here are some of the most popular meanings behind promise rings.

Monogamy: It is most common for a promise ring to symbolize a romantic commitment between two people. While many people choose to wear them as a pre-engagement adornment, there are many who wear them in replace of an engagement ring. If you’re not quite sure marriage aligns with your values or belief system but would still like to showcase that you’re in a committed relationship, a promise ring may be the perfect option. You can also choose to wear it on whichever finger feels right—whether that’s your ring finger or somewhere on your right hand. Since it has a unique meaning, it’s only fitting your wear it in your own unique manner.

Friendship: While friendship is a less common representation, there are many people who like to showcase their everlasting bond. If you’re parting ways geographically or celebrating a special point in your friendship, they can be a constant reminder of the memories you’ve shared together. For this type of meaning, it is common for both parties to wear a matching style.

Simulated diamond promise ring.

Personal Values: Whether it’s to symbolize a religious commitment or another value you both hold dear to your heart, promise rings may be a great option to showcase your values. It’s common for a parent to hand down a ring with this type of meaning in hopes their child carries it on, although it’s still commonly seen with couples.

Unique Promises: Have you and your other half promised something only the two of you know? It can be incredibly sentimental to wear an adornment that can remind you of your promise every day. Or, have you made a promise to yourself? Similar to the effects of a dream board, giving yourself a constant reminder of what you hope to achieve can increase the odds of you making it to your goal.


The Meaning Behind Engagement Rings

While promise rings can symbolize a variety of things, engagement rings symbolize one thing: a commitment to marriage. Historically, a man would give a woman an engagement ring to ask for her hand in marriage. Although, a lot has changed culturally since then. The shift in gender roles has paved the way for new trends and styles in the engagement space. For example, men have increasingly been opting to wear engagement rings alongside their fiance and more same-sex couples are likewise opting to both wear an engagement ring.

So, whether both people in the relationship opt for an engagement ring or just one, engagement rings are a stunning promise to be married. And while the meaning stays the same, each couple will have their own timeline. While most couples opt to get married within a couple of years of getting engaged, others may wait longer. It will ultimately depend on your situation.

Simulated diamond engagement ring.

The Difference Between a Promise Ring and an Engagement Ring

Apart from the meaning behind each type of ring, they also look very different from one another. While an engagement ring usually features a center diamond or simulated diamond, promise rings are usually less flashy in style. They may feature smaller accents or birthstones for symbolism. They may also just feature a plain band without any flashy details. The differences will likely vary depending on the jeweler you purchase them from, and the meaning you’re trying to convey. For example, to represent never-ending love you may opt for a promise ring that features accents around the entire shank—also referred to as an eternity ring.

To give you a better understanding of the differences between a promise ring and engagement ring, we’ve listed the most important distinctions below.


When are they given?

Promise rings: Promise rings are usually exchanged closer to the beginning of a relationship, but often after both people feel fairly committed. This is why it is more common for younger couples to give a promise ring, as they are committed to staying together but are not ready for marriage. But the timeframe also has to do with the meaning behind them. If you are giving a promise ring—whether to yourself or someone else—to symbolize milestones rather than symbolizing a relationship, they can be given at any point in time.

Engagement rings: As a more black and white situation, engagement rings are given only to propose marriage. While the timeline of this ring can vary depending on your unique situation, the meaning is always the same. And accepting an engagement ring means you agree to marry that person and be with them for the rest of your life.


How are they given?

Promise rings: Again, the way promise rings are given varies depending on the unique situation and the purpose of them. While one person may use a holiday as a chance to express their feelings, others may purchase them as a couple. There’s no exact protocol, which allows you to be creative when giving a promise ring. You can wrap it in a jewelry box, present it to her as a surprise, or place them on each other’s fingers in unison. The options are endless.

Engagement rings: Historically, a man would get down on one knee and present an engagement ring to a woman and ask for her hand in marriage. But, as gender roles shift, there is less of a gender-specific protocol. Many women have chosen to propose to the man, and in same-sex relationships, both people may feel obliged to propose. Some couples have even chosen to move away from getting down on one knee and opted for a more creative process. Whether you go traditional or modern is up to you.


What do they look like?

Promise rings: Unlike engagement rings, promise rings don’t have a specific design that they all abide by. For example, engagement rings most commonly have at least one stone at the center, and then they vary based on other design details. Promise rings may or may not feature any stones, and if they do, it’s more common for them to feature birthstones or other colorful gemstones. And, instead of one stone at center, they often appear more closely to wedding bands with accents detailing the shank.

Engagement rings: Engagement rings come in a variety of different styles, but, as outlined above, they usually follow the same design structure. While there are styles that feature multiple stones at center, engagement rings usually have at least one stone at center, and either a plain or accented shank. From there, more accents or metalwork is sometimes added to give the design a different look—such as vintage or modern styles. Since there is a wide range of styles, it’s easy to find one that matches you or your significant other’s personal style just right.


Promise Ring vs. Engagement Ring: Which One Is Right for You

Simple rose gold wedding ring.

Now that you know the key features between the two rings, you should better understand whether a promise ring or an engagement ring is right for you. To sum it up, promise rings are given—most commonly—earlier on in the relationship to symbolize commitment without marriage. Whatever the reasons may be—whether it’s not the right time in your life, you’re unsure of marriage or it doesn’t make fiscal sense—there are dozens of reasons that couples choose to wear promise rings. But engagement rings are more straightforward and they are only given as a proposal to be married. They are worn to symbolize a lifelong commitment and should only be given when it’s the right time in your life and your relationship

Though promise rings and engagement rings differ in a lot of ways, the common denominator between the two is that they both symbolize a promise. Whether it’s a promise to stay together, to always be honest with one another, to reach your personal goals or to be married, both rings are a meaningful gesture to adorn your hands with. They are both great for keeping those promises top of mind and holding it close to your heart whenever you wear them.



*Here at Diamond Nexus, we strive to provide valuable information while being clear and honest about our products. The Nexus Diamond™ alternative is a patented lab created diamond simulate that, among all simulants, most closely imitates the look, weight and wear of a diamond, with two exceptions - it is absolutely perfect in every way, and it costs significantly less. Price points and environmental facts expressed in this blog were taken from popular online retailers and may vary. Learn more about the environmental impact of mining by visiting our blog.