Promise Rings | Significance and Meaning in the 21st Century

Promise Rings 1

The Greeks were among the first to wear rings not only to represent marriage but also as a pledge of fidelity or loyalty. Throughout the centuries, various western civilizations adorned themselves similarly. In Roman times, the Claddagh ring – featuring two hands for friendship and a crown-topped heart for loyalty – was a popular choice for betrothal ring. Today, the design is recognized as an Irish tradition, and often given between couples with Irish ancestry.

Perhaps the first true display of promise rings were posy rings. From the 5th to the 17th century, posy rings (also spelled poesy or posie) were popular and affordable mementos that signified religiousness, platonic love, or romantic feelings. Engravings of short poems could be found on the inside and outside of these rings, allowing the recipient the chance to wear something personal, which was shared between them and the bestower.

Many modern jewelry experts consider a promise ring to be an updated version of a high school pin, class ring, or even letter jacket. These were popular options until the 1970s, but class rings are now considered outdated with younger generations. With fewer high school – and even university students – desiring these old-fashioned styles, promise rings began to fill a void in the American jewelry world.

What Does a Promise Ring Signify?

Each couple has their own reasons for determining what a promise ring means to them. In fact, while these rings certainly infer a promise to one another, the meaning absolutely changes from couple to couple. Most promise rings involve pre-engagement or celebrate a commitment that eschews marriage yet embraces an exclusive relationship.

Pre-engagement Rings

In the past, pre-engagement rings were often given when a future husband lacked the money to buy a suitable engagement ring, standing in until a proper proposal could be offered. These commitment rings often signified –and continue to signify – the shift from a more casual connection to a heartfelt promise between a monogamous couple. While it is more common for the man to present a unique promise ring for a girlfriend, it’s also appropriate for him to wear one.

Exclusive Monogamous Relationship

Monogamous Relationship, Promise Rings, Custom Jewelry by Jaume Labro

In the UK, only 25% of cohabiting partners view it as an active path towards marriage. In the United States, marriage rates are the lowest they’ve ever been. From 2007 to 2017, American adults in cohabiting relationships grew by 29%, clearly showing that – while the marriage dynamic is changing – committed relationships are not.

Though more people are choosing to cohabitate without marrying, it does not mean that they are any less sentimental. Many of the couples with zero intention of getting married – or even engaged– may desire to exchange rings to celebrate their commitment. Whether one person (or two) chooses to wear them, many promise rings for him and her are less elaborate than engagement rings, and more like simple wedding bands.

Promise to Oneself

Though less commonly practiced, a promise ring can be purchased by oneself to celebrate an achievement like overcoming a negative influence, or as a reminder to pursue a personal dream. An engraved inscription often accompanies such a ring to strengthen the individual’s resolve.

Which Finger Does a Promise Ring Go On?

Regardless of whether you wear a promise ring to celebrate pre-engagement or your bond without the intention of a civil ceremony, it is up to you and your loved one to decide how to wear your commitment ring. Remember that a ring worn on the fourth finger of the left hand may easily be mistaken for engagement or marriage. Depending on your relationship and the sensitivity of the issue, a right ring finger may be a more suitable location.

What Styles Are Best?


No matter what style you choose, commitment rings are typically more simple than engagement bands, and oftentimes most similar to a wedding ring design. There are various ways to personalize your promise rings, however.

Couple Sets

For those taking the next step in their relationship, what better way to show off your dedication to each other than with a promise ring set? By choosing and/or creating bands that have the same design or aesthetic, you’re sharing something wonderful between the two of you. In some cases, your chosen rings can even be forged from the same metal billet.

Mokume Gane

When choosing Mokume Gane jewelry, you are guaranteed a one-of-a-kind piece that lasts a lifetime. Additionally, you can create two matching Mokume Gane rings for him and her in a variety of patterns, widths, and shapes.


Just like a posy ring, the desire for jewelry engraved with a personal message has always remained popular. Some couples choose a shared date, their initials, or even an image with personal significance.

Choosing a Remarkable Promise Ring

The next step in your relationship is an incredibly important decision, and it’s essential to pick a ring that embodies the affinity you have for one another. Whatever your budget and preferences, Jaume Labro will assist you every step of the way.