Promise Rings! Hot Symbols of Commitment Since the 16th Century!

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What's all this fuss about promise rings? Are they something new or have they been around for a while? What do they mean and why is my teenager wearing one? If you've ever wondered what the rage is all about, then you've come to the right place!

What exactly is a promise ring?

When an agreement or oath has been made between two people, a promise ring is a piece of jewelry given as a token of the commitment that was made.

Sounds simple enough doesn't it? Well, be careful because the promise made between two people can be practically anything. It's imperative that both parties are clear on the meaning of the pact or pledge.

For example:

  • Monogamy: A promise to stay faithful to one another.

  • Chastity or Purity: A promise to keep ones virginity until marriage.

  • Friendship: A promise to seal a pledge of eternal friendship.

  • Substance or Sobriety: A promise to remain free from addictive behavior (alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, etc.).

  • Religious or Christian: A promise to remain committed to one's faith or belief in the God of their understanding.

These are just a few of the more popular reasons to give or wear a promise ring.


That being said, the most popular reason to give a promise ring is for pre-engagement.

Are you confused yet? Pre-engagement is actually not as bad as it sounds. It has always been popular to exchange promise rings, so a couple can showcase their commitment to one another prior to getting engaged. In other words, this ring is symbolic of a promise there will be an engagement ring forthcoming.

If you are old enough to remember "going steady" with someone then giving this type of promise ring is kind of the updated version of going steady. The symbolism of the promise ring is really no different than a girl of years ago wearing her boyfriend's high school ring on a chain around her neck or wearing her steady boyfriend's letterman jacket. If you are too young to understand this analogy, talk to your parents or grandparents and they can enlighten you.

This trial period before the engagement is a good way for a couple to test the waters before they make an actual commitment to marriage. Some may scoff at this gesture of pre-engagement. However, with the rise in divorce rates in this country it may be wise to start off slowly in the relationship instead of rushing ahead into something you are not ready for.

The other good news here is that a promise ring costs significantly less than an engagement ring. It makes a wonderful alternative for the couple who chooses not to spend a fortune on a ring at this time but still wants to make a statement about their commitment to one another.

How does one wear a promise ring - which finger, which hand?

Basically it's strictly a matter of personal preference, however the finger and hand you choose can depend entirely on the type of ring it is and in some cases the type of pledge. For example, an Irish Claddagh ring can have several meanings depending on the way it is:

  • Worn on the left hand, the wearer has made a promise of love and fidelity.

  • Worn on the right hand with the heart facing outward, the wearer's heart is free.

  • Worn on the right hand with the heart turned inward, the Wearer's heart is taken.

If you are exchanging friendship rings, it may be wise to wear the ring on your right hand so there is no confusion about romantic ties. There are many different types of rings you can share with a friend that will be meaningful to you both. A fun vacation you went on or the love of a certain hobby or animal, for example. My best friend and I share a love of cats. Therefore, we bought matching kitty cat rings, gold with diamond pave no less! These rings are special only to us and are a symbol of our friendship.

Most people associate the wearing of a ring on the left hand ring finger to mean that a significant commitment of some sort has been made.

If the promise is for pre-engagement, many couples choose to wear this ring on their left hand ring finger. They then switch the ring to their right hand once the actual engagement ring or wedding band is received.

Likewise a ring exchanged for the promise of monogamy or fidelity would be worn on the left hand ring finger to symbolize that the wearer's heart is taken.

Where did the promise ring originate?

Rings themselves have been symbolic for many thousands of years. The circle has no beginning and no end and is a strong symbol for eternity.

Have you ever heard of a scribbling ring? In sixteenth century England, uncut diamond crystals were set into rings and exchanged by lovers. The wearers of these scribbling rings would use the points of the diamonds to etch (or "scribble") romantic writings to each other in glass, mirrors or windows.

Another popular ring exchanged during Shakespearian times was called a Posey Ring. Posey rings are inscribed with poetic phrases or dates significant to the wearer.

It is believed that wearing words next to ones skin has a magical effect. These symbolic words may be carved on the outside or inside of the ring, or on both sides, there is no right or wrong way to do it!

Posey rings are a romantic way to share an expression of love and come engraved with beautiful sayings. It is no surprise that since French is said to be the language of love -- the French poseys are very popular. Some special phrases include:

  • A Ma Vie De Coer Entier – My whole heart for my whole life

  • A Vila Mon Coer, Gardi Li Mo – Here is my heart, guard it well

  • Amor Meus – My Love

  • Autre Ne Veuil – No one, but you

  • De M'Amoure Soiez Sure – Of my love be sure

Ok, so maybe French isn't your thing - how about one of these:

  • In Gaelic - Anam Cara – Soul Friend

  • In English – I Am My Beloved's & My Beloved Is Mine

  • In Latin - Semper Amenus – Our love is forever

  • In German - Mine Genyst – My heart

  • In Hebrew - Mazel Tov – Marital good luck ring

  • Christian – With This Ring, I Thee Wed

  • In Italian - Mani In Fede – Hands Together in Faith

  • In Spanish - No Tengo Mas Que Darte – I have nothing more to give you but my heart

Use your imagination and write a Posey of your own!

The list of Posey ring sayings is endless! If you really want to "wow" the love of your life, come up with a special phrase that is meaningful to just the two of you. Having a special ring engraved with one of your own poseys would be a very romantic way for you to share your most heartfelt sentiments with a special someone you care about!

About the Author

Mary Ferguson is a successful writer and internet entrepreneur. She has written many informative jewelry articles on such topics as promise rings, promise ring significance and promise ring etiquette.

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