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When is an engagement ring not an engagement ring? 

When it's a promise ring! 

If you don't have an engagement ring yourself, you'll know someone who does. And you'll probably also know someone who's desperately pining for one. 

Engagement rings have been almost a rite of passage throughout history, and hold special significance in Western society. Although attitudes towards relationships and marriage have changed over the years, few people (ahem, women) will deny the hope of being one day offered an engagement ring. 

So where on earth does a 'promise ring' fit into the picture? 

Like an engagement ring, a promise ring is symbol of a couple's commitment to one another. 

However, unlike an engagement ring, it doesn't mean they're definitely going to get married - yet. It's a kind of "we'll probably get married but it's not official" ring. 

Or, it’s a "we're not going to get married but we're in this for life" ring. 

So, a promise ring is sometimes known as a 'pre-engagement' ring. It differs from the 'purity ring', which is sometimes exchanged as a symbol of a couple's decision to remain celibate until marriage. 

Confused? 

The Meaning of a Promise (Ring) 

The wonderful thing about a promise ring is that it doesn't carry a one-size-fits-all meaning. The significance of a promise ring can vary from couple to couple. A promise ring may be given when a wedding is imminent but not likely to happen just yet. 

Or, it may be given when a couple have decided not to marry, but plan to stay together indefinitely. Essentially, a promise ring represents the love and commitment of the two people to one another. 

The History of the Promise Ring 

The concept of giving and wearing promise rings can be traced back to 16th-century England, when a 'posy ring' might be given to a lady by her lover. The posy ring was named for the romantic poetry - or promise - engraved on it. 

Another popular option was the acrostic ring - a ring set with gemstones that spelled out a word. By contrast, engagement rings are believed to date back to the Egyptians. Later, in ancient Rome, a bride-to-be was given two rings: a gold one to wear in public, and an iron one to wear at home. 

So Why All The Fuss Now? 

Promise rings are relatively new to the jewellery world, having made their debut only in the last decade or so. 

Like many trends, we have celebrities to thank for their sudden rise in popularity. Kirsten Stewart, Ashlee Simpson and Katy Perry are just a few of the names that have got the paparazzi excited about rings that look like engagement rings but turn out to be promise rings. Purity rings have also joined the scene, but carry a different meaning. 

When Is a Promise Ring Given? 

According to relationship experts, a promise ring should be given after a couple has been together for a significant period of time; a year or more, perhaps. The trick to giving a promise ring is to make sure it isn't confused with an engagement ring! No bended knee or Eiffel Tower required here. 

To be absolutely safe, it may be best for a couple to discuss the reasons for exchanging the rings beforehand, and perhaps to choose them together. 

An engagement ring, as we know, is traditionally given by the male in the relationship. However, times have changed! While most women still hang about waiting for their other half to propose, it's becoming far more common for a woman to pop the question, and the ring, instead. 

How Is A Promise Ring Worn? 

Another great thing about a promise ring is that it can be worn on any finger. Some may even wear it as a pendant, or on their toe! Engagement rings, on the other hand (excuse the pun) are most commonly worn on the third finger (the 'ring' finger) of the left hand. It was originally thought that this is the finger that contains the vein to the heart.

What Style Is A Promise Ring? 

Unlike an engagement ring, promise rings are wonderfully versatile. Because they're considered to be a 'fashion' item rather than traditional jewellery, there's no definitive style. 

Promise rings can vary by material, design and shape, depending on personal preference. Engravings are a popular choice for promise rings. A special message, name or even just "I love you" is not only meaningful but a great conversation piece! 

Price is an important consideration when choosing a promise ring. This is one ring that needn't break the bank: it's the meaning of the ring that matters most. If it's precious metal you're after, save it for the engagement ring. 

The type of metal you choose for your promise ring has a big impact on price. Precious metals such as gold, silver or palladium will obviously cost a lot more than trendy alternative metals, such as tungsten, cobalt chrome and even stainless steel. 

Engagement rings are typically the piece that most people tend to splash out on. After all, an engagement ring carries much more symbolic weight than a promise ring. This is where you can put more thought (and cash) into choosing a special material or design - especially if you want your partner to say yes! 

When Is A Promise Ring Removed? 

Again, it's up to you. Promise rings may be replaced by an engagement ring, or worn together. While the end of the relationship may be a good reason to remove a promise ring, there are no rules either way. Some people may choose to keep their ring as a fashion piece.

In a nutshell, a promise ring is about showing the world (and your other half) that you're wholly besotted with one another. It's a piece of jewellery that doesn't have to be lavish or expensive: it's a symbol of love rather than wealth. However, a little thought goes a long way. A promise ring can be as simple as a plain band and yet as special as a lifetime commitment!
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