A pre-engagement ring can sometimes be misnamed as a promise ring or a commitment ring. They are different from engagement rings and purity rings, and overall seem to be less popular than the former. But their lack of popularity may stem from confusion about what a pre-engagement ring is and when it should be given.
A pre-engagement ring is a ring given to your significant other, before the engagement ring. It doesn’t take the place of the engagement ring but is a precursor. They can be given for a handful of reasons including waiting until you are financially able to purchase an engagement ring or just waiting until the right “time” to become engaged.
Regardless of your reasoning, these rings symbolize your intention to become engaged. Or at least stay committed to your significant other. Let’s take a deeper dive into the who, what, when, and why of a pre-engagement ring.
The Definition of a Pre-Engagement Ring
A pre-engagement ring is a ring given prior to the engagement ring. It doesn’t take the place of an engagement ring. The typical purpose of a pre-engagement ring is to signify to your significant other, and society, that you intend to marry them in the future.
What Does A Pre-Engagement Ring Look Like?
Pre-engagement rings can look very similar to engagement rings. Their appearance will often depend on your betrothed’s personality and your finances.
A singular diamond solitaire on a band is a popular choice. Some couples also navigate towards a band with small inset diamonds. Alternatively, others may want to save the diamonds for the engagement ring and wedding band and choose to use other precious stones.
Bold or demure, flashy, or simple, the ring should reflect both you and your significant other personality and style.
Why Not Just Give an Engagement Ring?
If a pre-engagement ring looks like an engagement ring and signifies the same thing, it begs the question why not just give an engagement ring.
There may be a few different reasons. Some couples may not want to be engaged, yet. They may not be financially or emotionally ready to be engaged. Additionally, they might not be ready to be married and don’t want to have a long engagement. Therefore, to keep the engagement period short or at an acceptable time, but still show their commitment, they opt for a pre-engagement ring.
Alternatively, a couple may want an engagement ring that is nicer than they can currently afford. It is not uncommon for some to save up for a ring, and hold off purchasing one until they have the funds. In the meantime, their significant other may want something to symbolize their committed relationship. Hence, the pre-engagement ring.
Are Pre-Engagement Rings the Same as a Promise Ring?
There are a few different types of rings that may be given prior to an engagement ring. Though the names can sometimes be used interchangeably, they technically have different purposes behind being given.
- A Promise Ring
A promise ring is a symbol of a couple's love for one another. Usually exchanged between two people who are young, these rings can be a precursor to a pre-engagement ring. They can be worn on nearly any finger and made of almost any material you can think of.
These rings date back to the 13th century when girls were given posy rings by their most committed suitors. Posy rings were eventually replaced with acrostic rings that used gemstones in the 18th century.
Now, as with then, these rings do not necessarily signify an impending engagement. Instead, they are used to show that two people are in a committed relationship. In modern times, they are most commonly used by those in a long-distance relationship.
- A Purity Ring
A purity ring is something entirely different. These rings signify that the wearer is staying pure until marriage, or abstaining until marriage. They are generally worn by those of varying faiths as they are typically religious.
A purity ring can look like any other ring from the outside. On the inside though, they may have an engraving about living a pure life, or a phrase, such as “true love waits”. Unlike a promise ring, they are commonly worn on a person’s left ring finger. This is the same finger on which a wedding band is worn, as the purity ring signifies that you are waiting until marriage.
In most cases, a purity ring is not given by someone to their significant other. Instead, they can be purchased by the wearer directly or even by a family member. Similar to a promise ring they do signify a commitment, but it is not to a relationship. It is a commitment to staying pure, mind, body, and heart until the ring is removed and replaced by a wedding band.
- A Commitment Ring
The final ring that is sometimes confused with a pre-engagement ring is a commitment ring. These rings are a symbol of two people's commitment to one another. However, they don’t always signify that engagement or marriage is in their future.
They are usually exchanged by two older people, or adults, and represent a pledge to another person as an adult. This is unlike a promise ring used with young couples. Commonly, these rings can be used by adult couples who never intend to get married but remain committed to one another and sharing their lives.
These rings may be just as extravagant as a wedding ring, as they can function as a pseudo-wedding ring. Alternatively, they can be very simple. It is ultimately up to the wearer.
Though a pre-engagement ring might be easily confused for one of these other rings, pre-engagement rings have their own specific set of reasons for being used.
How To Choose a Pre-Engagement Ring
Picking out a pre-engagement ring is very similar to shopping for any other jewelry item. There is a myriad of styles, sizes, metals, stones, designs, and more. Overall, your ring choice should reflect the wearer's personal style and be both comfortable and enjoyable to wear.
- Choose Your Style
First, decide if you want your ring to be simple or grand, or somewhere in between. As mentioned, pre-engagement rings can resemble actual engagement rings. Do you want a diamond stunner? Or an understated elegant band? Narrowing down what style of ring you would like will help immensely.
- Pick Your Metal
There are so many types of metal available. Each has specific advantages and disadvantages. The first is yellow gold. Yellow gold is the most traditional and common metal used for rings. Usually, you won’t want to purchase one-hundred percent gold, as these would be quite soft and damage easily, not to mention very expensive. Typically other metals are added to the gold for stability and then the metal is then referred to as an alloy.
How much gold and the quality of the gold are referred to in karats (with a “K”, carats with a “C” refers to diamond purity). You can find 14kt gold, 18kt gold, and so on. An 18kt gold ring is only 75% gold, and a 24kt gold ring is considered “pure gold”.
Yellow gold tends to be the most pricey of the different shades of gold. A pre-engagement ring of this style can pair very well with your future engagement ring and/or wedding band.
Another shade choice is rose gold, a warmer reddish/pink color. Gold combined with copper and occasionally small amounts of silver results in a beautifully champagne-colored ring. The karat value is still determined by the amount of gold in the band. But, it is not considered a naturally occurring rare metal. This can make it more affordable than yellow gold and also more durable. Rose gold is a stylish and modern option.
Finally, white gold. It is also an alloy made of gold and “white” metals like nickel or silver combined with a rhodium plating. The plating finish gives the ring a look similar to platinum. This is a less expensive option compared to platinum. And though the ring will be more durable than yellow gold, the plating may still require a regular refinishing. Just something to keep in mind.
Next is platinum. Platinum rings are one of the best choices for a wedding band but may be a bit pricey for a pre-engagement ring. Platinum is strong, anti-fading, and corrosion-resistant. Considered one of the whitest metals, its appearance is very prized.
These glowing rings hold up well over time, making them very accommodating to a future wedding set. Another big bonus is that they are hypoallergenic, excellent for passing along to future family members.
Moving on to palladium, a cheaper metal that resembles platinum. Sometimes even referred to as “the poor man's platinum”. It won’t be as lustrous but still plenty strong. It is quite scratch-resistant, making it a long-lasting ring.
Titanium rings are dark grey or charcoal and a popular choice for men’s rings; a great choice if you are doing couples pre-engagement rings. It resists scratches and scuffs but can develop an oxide layer over time that can be polished out. Titanium is an affordable choice but due to its qualities don’t expect to get it resized or altered.
Moving on to tungsten or tungsten carbide, the most durable of metals for rings. These rings won’t scratch or scuff but are prone to shattering under extreme pressure. Still, they are affordable, hypoallergenic, and come in appealing shades.
Finally, sterling silver is typically used in “placeholder rings”. Or a pre-engagement ring until your budget matches your ring aspirations. Silver is added to copper to make a sterling silver ring more durable.
Like white gold, the outside of the ring is treated with “fine” silver, to create the shiny silver luster. Though not a long-lasting ring, due to discoloration and scuffing, sterling silver is very affordable and comes in many styles.
As you can see, there are various prices, shades, and strengths of metals. To choose the right one, think about your budget, your style, and your daily lifestyle.
On the other hand, you could choose a non-metal option. A non-metal option is rather uncommon for a pre-engagement ring, but it is ultimately your choice.
Silicone is ideal for individuals who are very active or have workplace considerations. Silicone rings were created for safety and versatility. Made of rubber, they can easily tear away, preventing a variety of finger injuries.
They are extremely affordable and come in all kinds of colors and designs. They are waterproof, heat resistant, and non-conductive.
Wood has become trendy for couples wanting an eco-friendly option. They are hypoallergenic, if unfinished, and are safe for the workplace as they don’t conduct heat or electricity. Even though they are affordable, they are not the most durable.
Still, oak or maple are enduring options because they are hardwoods. For increased strength, wood can also be inlaid in metal.
Gems or No Gems?
After choosing the metal, decide if you would like any gems or precious stones on your ring. Traditionally, pre-engagement rings, promise rings, and the like featured the birthstones of the couple. Today you can choose to have a simple band, a variety of different gems, or even just a solitaire.
- Which Ones?
Decided you would like stones? Which ones will you choose? Some pre-engagement rings have a diamond. This is because these rings signify an impending engagement, and therefore mirror an engagement ring but on a smaller scale.
Alternatively, you could choose a gem, a stone, or even a pearl. The opportunities are endless. It is all about your personal tastes and style.
If you do decide on a gem, particularly a diamond, you should have a cut in mind. The cut refers to the shape of the diamond. Each cut will likely have a different price point. Round cuts are very popular, and usually the most costly. Other more obscure shapes, like pear, tend to cost less.
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If size matters, know how your budget compares to how many carats you would like. Carats refer to the weight of the diamond (or its size). Many pre-engagement rings, if they do have a diamond, will have one that is very small in size. After all, this is a precursor to the engagement ring.
When thinking about diamonds and size and shape, don’t forget to consider how this ring will be worn in the future. You may be able to add it to your wedding set if you choose wisely.
Also, remember carats aren’t everything. Quantity doesn’t always mean quality. Be sure to check out the clarity and brilliance of the stone compared to the carats.
Pre-engagement rings can lend themselves well to engravings. You can choose to engrave both your names, a special phrase, or even a date.
- One Ring or Two?
A final consideration is, are you purchasing one ring or a set? Though it is very common for only one person in the relationship to be presented with a ring, some couples prefer to each wear a ring. This way both people can outwardly show their commitment to the relationship.
If you are purchasing a set, you will probably want your rings to match or coordinate in some aspect.
Pre-Engagement Ring Etiquette
There are no hard and fast rules concerning pre-engagement rings. However, there are a few guidelines that are generally adhered to.
When to give a pre-engagement ring.
A pre-engagement ring signifies that an engagement is in the future. If you don’t intend to become engaged or married, then you may want to consider another type of ring. Such as a promise ring or a commitment ring.
How to wear it.
A pre-engagement ring precedes an actual engagement ring. Guidelines state it should be worn on the ring finger or the left hand so that it can be removed and replaced when the actual engagement occurs.
Depending on the style of your ring, it can be easily confused for an actual engagement ring. This is especially true if you wear it on your left-hand ring finger. This may or may not be concerning for you.
However, some argue that if the engagement will not be happening within the next two years, then the pre-engagement ring should be worn on the ring finger of the right hand.
Just like with an engagement ring, if the promise is broken, it is appropriate to return the ring to the person who gave it.
Do I need to be a certain age?
There are no age specifications regarding a pre-engagement ring. Usually, a pre-engagement ring is given between two people who are young adults or older. They have been in a committed relationship and plan to get married. Promise rings are typically for younger individuals, sometimes even high school sweethearts.
Still, there are no specific rules concerning age. If you feel in your heart that the time is right, and your partner agrees, then go for it!
A Symbol of Love
Ultimately, the ring should symbolize your unique love and commitment to one another. It should be a reflection of your relationship. As such, it should be special to you two. Carats, cut, and style don’t matter as long as you both love it.
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