Engagement Ring vs. Promise Ring: What's The Difference? (2023)

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by Suzanne Sachs  5 min read



Promise rings are a hot jewelry trend for many couples in many different types of relationships, but how do I buy a promise ring and how do they differ from engagement rings? Both rings make promises, but there are often differences between promise rings and engagement rings.


In this guide, we will explain the following:

  • What Is a Promise Ring?
  • The Giving of a Promise Ring
  • Similarities Between a Promise Ring and an Engagement Ring
  • Styles
  • Left or Right Hand
  • Heirloom Rings
  • Differences Between a Promise Ring and an Engagement Ring
  • Price Difference
  • Who Wears the Ring
  • Symbolism
  • Coordinating Sets
  • Gemstone Types
  • Promise Ring Styles
  • Which Hand Is a Promise Ring Worn On?
  • How Long Can I Wear a Promise Ring?
  • Every Vintage Ring Is a Promise

What is a Promise Ring?

A promise ring is a token of love given as a symbol of your eternal commitment to one another as a couple. More than just any ring, a promise ring for her is a symbol of the beginning of your journey together as a committed couple. A promise ring doesn’t have to be a “pre-engagement” ring, but could represent any promise such as ongoing fidelity, a commitment to a career, renewing romantic vows, or pledging support for a personal choice between partners or a promise a woman makes to herself.


The Giving of a Promise Ring

Promise rings may be given to anyone at any age when a suitable promise is made. While they are more common with younger wearers, particularly if it is a commitment promise between a couple, promise rings can still be given even after a person has been married for years, especially if the promise is unrelated to a romantic relationship. An engagement ring, however, is only presented as part of a marriage or marital commitment, or at a significant wedding anniversary to reaffirm that commitment.


Similarities Between a Promise Ring and an Engagement Ring

Both promise rings and engagement rings represent meaningful commitments that are significant to both the wearer of the ring and the one who gives it. Depending on each individual’s preferences, promise rings and wedding rings may both...

• Styles

Have a wide range of styles with or without gemstones.


• Left or Right Hand

Both can be worn on the left hand if desired. Be engraved with the ring's unique significance.


• Heirloom Rings

Become heirlooms passed onto others.


promise ring may become an engagement ring if a couple wishes it to be so, and ultimately, there are no limits to what either a promise ring or engagement ring may be.

Differences Between a Promise Rings and an Engagement Ring

Though there are no hard-and-fast requirements for what type of ring may be a promise ring and what type of ring may be a wedding ring, there are often significant differences between these two symbolic styles of rings, such as…

 Price Difference

In general, promise rings are much less expensive than wedding rings, especially if a promise ring is shared between a very young couple that may not have a generous budget. This does not mean that wedding bands automatically must be pricier, but if a couple first shares promise rings and later wedding rings, the wedding rings do often cost more.


• Who Wears the Ring?

For many couples, both partners wear wedding or engagement rings once they have legally or ceremonially declared their union. Promise rings, however, are more often given from one person to the other, similar to engagement rings. This is also true if the promise made is a one-person commitment, such as promising abstinence, or if the ring is given from a parent to a child as a family promise. 


• Symbolism

Similarly, an engagement ring always symbolizes a commitment between two people, whereas a promise ring could be a promise to oneself or a commitment that involves several others, such as committing to a church or other group.


 Coordinating Sets

In general, a promise ring is a standalone piece of jewelry worn by itself, whereas a wedding ring may match its associated engagement ring. While some wedding rings are still worn as solo pieces, promise rings are almost never worn as a set with any other ring, and instead will either be removed or replaced as the promise is fulfilled or evolves to another commitment.


 Gemstone Types

Both promise rings and wedding rings may incorporate gemstones if desired, but the type of gemstone may vary. Promise rings may use small diamonds or other gemstones such as aquamarines, rubies, sapphires, or emeralds, but wedding rings typically only feature diamonds. When a wedding ring does showcase colored gems, it is often to coordinate with the colored gemstone of a more unique engagement ring.


 Promise Ring Styles

There is great variation among the styles of both promise rings and engagement rings, but in general, engagement rings tend to be more elaborate than promise rings. Promise rings tend to be more youthful and delicate to suit smaller hands, while wedding rings are more substantial and usually incorporate more gemstones and detailing than a promise ring.


Which Hand is a Promise Ring Worn On?

In most cultures, countries, and faiths, a wedding ring is worn on the fourth finger (ring finger) of the left hand. Promise rings, however, may be worn on any finger of either hand. If the design of the promise ring may be confused for a wedding ring or engagement ring, however, it is most often worn either on the right hand or else not on the left ring finger to avoid any misinterpretation.


How Long Can I Wear a Promise Ring?

An engagement ring is worn so long as a couple is wed, whereas the length of time a promise ring is worn can vary greatly. A promise ring might be removed when the promise is fulfilled or when the ring is replaced by a more significant promise, such as replacing a romantic promise ring with a more formal engagement ring. Promise rings may be worn alongside engagement rings (albeit on different fingers or hands) when the promise is unrelated to the romantic commitment, such as a promise to quit smoking when one is already married.


Every Vintage Ring is a Promise

Ultimately, every ring is a promise, whether it represents a romantic commitment between two people, a personal pledge to oneself, a family promise, or a vow to another goal, group, or organization. Because these promises are very personal, every promise ring can be personalized in whatever way one wishes, even if it may look similar to a wedding ring. So long as the wearer knows and keeps the promise, and so do others who are connected to the promise, it will be a significant and meaningful piece of jewelry to be treasured.

Art Deco Diamond and Sapphire Engagement Ring 1.16 Ct GIA J/SI1



No matter which era is your favorite, these time-honored rings have a rich history and individualized character and will continue to have a timeless beauty and elegant appeal that is part of a legacy to pass on to future generations.


Antique diamond cuts are prized not only for their beauty but also for their exquisite attention to detailing and faceting. If you’re looking for a ring with a sense of glamour, sophistication and vintage charm, explore our collection of promise rings today!



Suzanne has always believed vintage rings can change lives. She's been in the jewelry industry for over 35 years, working with vintage jewelers, diamond dealers, diamond cutters, and gemologists. Suzanne started Artdecodiamonds in 2000 and understood the demand for vintage rings throughout the world. She ultimately started VintageDiamondRing.com in 2014, and understands each vintage ring is a reflection of you – your history, your relationships, your style, your elegance and is honored to have the opportunity to help you showcase your flair in a unique and exquisite way.

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Contact Suzanne

If you love vintage jewelry please feel free to contact Suzanne or browse our collection of sustainable vintage engagement rings.

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