Promise Ring vs Engagement Ring: How To Tell Them Apart?

promise ring vs engagement ring

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Last Updated on May 31, 2024 by Steal the Style

In the last five years, the popularity of promise rings has been steadily climbing up[1].

It’s no surprise, there are a lot of factors that have nudged them into the spotlight. But I would go on a limb and say that one of the key factors is the simplest one – marriage. Or rather it’s decline.

Don’t’ get me wrong, 70% of young people still want to get married someday. But marriage has taken a back seat to gaining a solid economic foundation, first[2]. And that is a sound decision, especially if you consider that, on average, you’d have to spend more than $25,000 on a wedding alone[3].

So people choose to get married later in life even if they are in a stable relationship. But this doesn’t cancel out their desire to show commitment to their partner in a more material way.

Enter promise rings.

Let’s look at key differences between engagement and promise rings and see what makes them a preferred choice for some.

ANAZOZ Hers & Women's Stainless Steel for Real Love Heart Promise Ring Wedding Engagement Bands 6MM US Size 7

ANAZOZ Hers & Women's Stainless Steel for Real Love Heart Promise Ring Wedding Engagement Bands 6MM US Size 7


The beauty of promise rings lies in the fact that they can look however you want. It’s a vague thing to say but it doesn’t make it any less true. They could feature gemstones, simple inscriptions, and even geographical coordinates.

It’s true, promise rings do offer more freedom when it comes to design. But there is one unofficial rule you might want to follow. A promise ring shouldn’t look too much like an engagement ring. This could cause some confusion, both for your significant other as well as outsiders.

In fact, a lot of promise rings come in pairs like wedding bands. If your goal is to show commitment to your partner, this could be an even better choice than a single ring.

Sterling Silver Diamond Accent Heart Ring, Size 7


The good news is that you no longer have to spend a two or three months salary on an engagement ring. The bad news is that people still expect to spend from $1000 to $5000 on one[4]. Some might consider it a reasonable expense. Others might start considering selling their kidney.

Promise rings, on the other hand, are more flexible when it comes to price. You can, of course, find a promise ring encrusted with diamonds. Its price would even come pretty close to an engagement ring. But a simpler several-dozen-dollars worth promise ring would fulfil its purpose just as well.


We all know that an engagement ring goes onto, you guessed it, the left ring finger. Some people might switch the ring to the right hand after getting married. Wearing both an engagement ring and a wedding band on the same finger is also a popular choice. It has been already established that promise rings don’t exactly conform to rules. Same rings true when choosing a finger to wear it on. If for you it plays the role of a pre-engagement ring, you can put it on your left ring finger. But if you want to avoid being confused for an engaged woman, then you can just as easily wear it on any finger you want.

Wearing it on a chain around your neck is also a good alternative.

Intent & Timing

The intent behind an engagement ring could not be more straightforward. It means that your significant other wants to marry you. End of story. So you better start planning your wedding as soon as you’re done showing off the shiny ring.

Receiving a promise ring means just that – a promise. What kind of promise is completely up to the gifter or both of you as a couple. Such ring can serve as a pre-engagement one, meaning you can expect a shiny upgrade of the ring in the future. I

t could also serve as a substitute for wedding bands if both of you don’t want to get married, yet or ever. A promise ring is also a fitting gift for couples in a long-distance relationship. As a whole, promise rings are sometimes seen as a sweet gift on par with other jewelry for couples. Being proposed to usually involves a bent knee and some iteration of “will you marry me?”.

The timing of the proposal can be completely random or fall on an important date for the couple. Getting a promise ring can but doesn’t have to involve a fancy setting and/or even fancier words. Promise rings also experience a spike in popularity before Christmas and Valentine’s Day.

We live in complicated times. This is reflected in many aspects of our lives, including marriage and relationships. Luckily, promise rings are just on the right side of vague and flexible to account for that. Through them, couples get to show their commitment to each other, whatever form it takes. And that is kind of beautiful.

EAMTI 925 Sterling Silver 1.25 CT Round Cubic Zirconia Engagement Ring CZ Wedding Band Size 7.5


What is the difference between a promise ring and an engagement ring?