If you're in love, but not yet ready to put your relationship on a more permanent footing, a promise ring is a modern alternative to an engagement ring.
A promise ring is a sign of commitment between two people. Often, it is the first token of a serious relationship that is just developing, but exchanging promise rings can equally be a symbol of a joint commitment which is not related to love.
If a promise ring is given with the understanding that it will be replaced in the future by an engagement ring, it is usually, although not always, somewhat more modest in design and price. Often, couples who know they will eventually marry begin by exchanging promise rings, move on to an engagement ring and finally purchase the wedding bands.
The center stone in a promise ring will often be smaller than that of an engagement ring, and many promise rings have no center stone at all, being designed with a variety of stones stylishly designed.
Promise rings which are intended as pre-engagement rings are traditionally worn on the third finger of the left hand - the time-honored location for the engagement ring. The promise ring is simply replaced by the engagement ring and then the wedding ring at the appropriate times.
If the promise ring is not linked to a promise of marriage, it is often worn on a finger of the right hand to prevent any confusion about the meaning of the promise ring. Some prefer to wear a pre-engagement promise ring on the right-hand ring finger to ensure that no-one assumes that the couple is already engaged.
It is thought that the idea of a promise ring originated thousands of years ago, perhaps as far back as biblical times. In those days, couples were betrothed rather than engaged, and a betrothal was a legally binding ceremony which meant that the couple were promised to each other and would eventually marry, although perhaps not for many years.
The groom-apparent would, as part of the ceremony, give his bride-to-be a ring to show his commitment to her and this is believed to have been the first use of a promise ring.