Promise Ring vs Engagement Ring: How Are They Different?

Table of Contents



Did you know that the Ancient Egyptians believed that the circle of a ring (i.e., the band) “represented no beginning and no end” to the eternal love and commitment between two lovers? Even today, a ring carries a symbol of one’s eternal love for another, whether by committing to marriage with an engagement ring or providing a promise to a friend or lover that the relationship will last forever. 

Raia Oval Cut Engagement Ring in 18K White Gold

Promise ring vs. engagement ring: know the difference before you choose the right pair!

Chances are, you’ve already heard of promise rings and engagement rings. You might have even heard them synonymously. However, they are two different types of jewelry with two different meanings behind them. And a promise ring or commitment ring has increased substantially in popularity now that it has become a more common practice to choose to commit yourself to another individual without a wedding. 

Here are the most significant differences you should know between the two types of rings, including the answer to one of the most frequently asked questions, “Can a promise ring be an engagement ring?”


Promise rings have historically been viewed as a symbol of puppy love when you’re a teenager. It has also become popular among young adults and older generations as a promise of commitment and loyalty to your partner without the wedding and, of course, the wedding ring. According to some research, the UK and US lead the way in Google searches for promise rings. This resurgence in popularity comes after many famous couples of all ages have worn this type of matching ring to symbolize their commitments over the last decade:

  • Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart
  • Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth 
  • Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber
  • Tyga and Kylie Jenner
  • Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
  • Justin Theroux and Jennifer Aniston 

And it’s far from a new concept. According to Love You Tomorrow, the history behind promise rings dates back to ancient times when they were used as a reminder of someone you love every time you looked down at it. Later, by the 1700s, promise rings were most popularly adorned with poems for a lover. Some even consider a diamond promise ring to be a pre-engagement ring or even a friendship ring, which we will delve deeper into below. 


Engagement rings, on the other hand, have been a well-known staple of marriage for centuries. While a promise ring is not required in a serious romantic relationship, an engagement ring is often a physical symbol that is customary in most traditions. They carry much larger commitments to each other that signal an active engagement to be married.

With that said, the history behind engagement rings has always been more than a reminder as well. According to Brides, you can trace the diamond engagement ring all the way back to Ancient Rome when partners would use them as “a sign of ownership.” In fact, it wasn’t until 850 that it was officially declared a representation of a man’s intent to marry a woman by the Pope Nicholas.

In modern times, traditions are shifting, and anyone can pop the question with a unique style and design that represents their love. Nonetheless, it still symbolizes an upcoming marriage, with a commitment to one other to be faithful and loyal to each other. 


Although they’re often mixed up, there are several differences between a promise ring and an engagement ring. As the popular saying goes, “Every piece of jewelry tells a story.” A promise ring’s story will be considerably different from the story behind an engagement ring. Here’s why.


One of the most significant differences between a promise ring and an engagement ring is the intention of giving one away. For an engagement ring, the giver is asking the receiver to take the big step into marriage together in the near future. 

On the other hand, a promise ring can be given for a host of reasons, including:

  • Intent to marry someday, but likely not soon (typical for those who intend to wait until after college, a promotion, etc.)
  • A commitment to friendship
  • A promise to oneself to reach a personal goal or maintain a pledge given to oneself.
  • A symbol of any kind of promise to the receiver 
  • A commitment to share your life with someone you love without feeling the need to be married


The protocol of giving a promise ring vs engagement ring is also different. For couples, a promise ring ‘promises’ exclusivity, while an engagement ring represents a pending marriage. Likewise, an engagement ring is a bigger milestone than a promise ring, often requiring one to get down on one knee.

Furthermore, engagements are also followed by engagement parties, bridal showers, other celebrations, and a wedding.

While the traditional protocol for giving an engagement ring is diversifying and getting more creative, it often remains much more lavish than the typical protocol for giving a promise ring. It can be a gift for a special occasion or brought out on a date. Either way, it’s often more of a promise from you and to your partner to commit to them, rather than a question asking them to commit to you.


When picking an engagement ring for your significant other, the design often includes at least one stone in the middle of a band. From there, you can get as creative as you like with design, the number of stones, type of gemstones, carat sizes, and more. If you like a more classic look, you can choose timeless engagement ring styles, or if you want something different, you can also purchase a pair with unique engagement ring settings. In fact, many couples like to create engagement rings that not only express their love for each other but accurately represent their personality as a couple. 

With a promise ring, the design and cost are less specific. It can be a plain band, topped with one single stone or covered in gems and diamonds. It’s up to you, your preferences, and your budget. Lab-grown diamonds are great for this type of ring as well. Not only because it can save you a substantial amount of money, but you can comfortably get exactly what you want that perfectly fits the promise you are giving to your partner. 


An engagement ring always goes on the ‘ring finger’ of your left hand, right next to the pinky. A promise ring, on the other hand, is more subjective. You can keep it on your ring finger until the time comes to upgrade your relationship status to ‘engaged,’ or you can wear it on any other finger.


Absolutely anything can be an engagement ring. With that said, not every ring is meant to be an engagement ring, as each has different meanings and purposes. So, traditionally a promise ring would be given, then an engagement ring, and then a wedding band. 

Round Cut Scallop Set Semi-Eternity Band in 18K Yellow Gold

This is because, in many cases, matching promise rings are pre-engagement rings — a promise to someday marry without the pressure to start the planning right now. This is not always the case, as a promise ring can also be a symbol of commitment, and they don’t always have to have the future intent or meaning that the couple will become engaged.

Since both rings symbolize love, unity, and eternal commitment, you can use a promise ring as an engagement ring if it’s the right choice for you and your partner. There’s no set rule to being engaged aside from a ring, so the final decision is in your hands. 


Dating all the way back to ancient times, jewelry has always been strongly associated with love and romance. Today, it is also a symbol of friendship, self-love, family, commitment, achievement, and so much more. Rings, in particular, can have different meanings, like a promise ring vs engagement ring. The key is to determine which one is right for the occasion — i.e., do you plan to marry your partner in the near future or just want to make a promise to share your life with them?

With 12FIFTEEN, you can get the perfect ring for any occasion by going online and consulting our lab-grown diamond experts. Using the details of your unique circumstance, we can direct you to the perfect promise ring or engagement ring for the occasion.

Chat With Us
Win a $5,000 Shopping Spree

Enter for your chance to win a five thousand dollar shopping spree!

By submitting this form with a phone number, you agree to receive recurring automated promotional and personalized marketing text messages (e.g. cart reminders) from 1215 Diamonds at the cell number used when signing up. Consent is not a condition of any purchase. Reply HELP for help and STOP to cancel. Msg frequency varies. Msg & data rates may apply. View Terms, Privacy & Giveaway Terms
Thank You!

You are now entered to win a 12FIFTEEN Diamonds shopping spree. Make sure you watch your email for more information and to find out if you’re the lucky winner.

Shop Now

There was a problem with the form submission.