How to Pick a Promise Ring: Vintage or Contemporary?

Promise Ring Vintage

Promise rings are an important way to express love and commitment to one’s romantic partner. There’s plenty of advice out there on shopping for the perfect ring for your partner, but it’s usually in reference to “popping the question” – and there’s a big difference between a promise ring and engagement ring. Finding the right promise ring is key, whether you’re showing that your relationship is on course for eventual engagement or demonstrating your dedication to a non-traditional arrangement.

As you search for the right promise ring for your partner, you will want to consider whether you’re looking for a vintage or contemporary piece of jewelry. In choosing between a vintage or a contemporary ring, think about the meaning of the promise ring, your partner’s aesthetic tastes, and your budget.

Pave Ruby Gemstone Ring in White Gold

Pave Ruby Gemstone Ring in White Gold

The Purpose Behind Your Promise Ring

Before you begin shopping for a promise ring, you need have a strong understanding of what you want your promise ring to mean. Knowing the message you want to send will help you decide what type of ring to purchase.

Here are some examples of what your promise ring could mean:

  • Monogamy: A commitment to remain monogamous while in a romantic relationship. This can be used as an alternative to getting married.
  • Chastity: This is also known as a purity ring. It means you and your partner will remain celibate until marriage.
  • Pre-engagement:  When you know that you’re going to stay with your significant other forever but you aren’t quite ready for marriage, or maybe can’t afford the bigger statement that is an engagement ring right now, a promise ring is also known as a pre-engagement ring.
  • Friendship: An expression of lifelong commitment to a platonic friend. You would give this to your BFF.
  • Promises to Yourself: Buying a promise ring can be a way of expressing commitment to your own goal, whether it be abstaining from alcohol or other drugs or just maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity.

If you are looking for a pre-engagement ring, look for a modest ring that won’t outshine the engagement ring you will eventually give. This will allow the two to be worn together.

Twisted Rope Ring in Rose Gold

Twisted Rope Ring in Rose Gold

A promise ring with a vintage twist is a good fit for a more conservative relationship. Gift vintage rings as pre-engagement and purity rings.

By contrast, a promise ring that expresses commitment and monogamy in lieu of marriage can be more dazzling because you won’t ever have to compare it to an engagement ring or wedding band. These rings, which exemplify the diversity of modern couples, may be best matched with a more contemporary style.

Trellis Three Sapphire Gemstone Ring in White Gold

Trellis Three Sapphire Gemstone Ring in White Gold

If the promise ring is just for yourself, you only have to consider your own likes and dislikes. But if you’re giving a promise ring to your best friend, you will really have to think about what will make him/her happy.

Consider if one of these definitions fits the goals you have for the promise ring you want to purchase. The purpose of your promise ring will dictate its style.

Vintage and Contemporary Promise Rings

Once you have clarified for yourself what the promise ring is supposed to mean, it’s time to really consider the style of ring you want to give to your loved one.

There are many differences to consider between the two types of rings. Contemporary rings were made recently and are usually being sold for the first time. Vintage rings or vintage-inspired designs have more history and often a story attached to them, which may affect your purchasing decision. (If you don’t want a ring that’s been previously owned, a new, vintage-inspired ring may be the choice for you!)

Antique Ring in White Gold

Antique Ring in White Gold

When picking a vintage ring, know that what was in style at the time the ring was made plays a huge part in how will look. Consider the prevalent jewelry styles from three different eras:

  • Art Deco Era (1920-1940): Art Deco engagement rings tend to have a streamlined, geometric look. They often have colorful, contrasting gemstones or glittering diamonds set in platinum.
  • Edwardian Era (1900-1920): Platinum was the vogue metal in the Edwardian era due to advances in metalworking technology. Edwardian rings often feature lacy and pierced shapes, milgraining, scrollwork, and filigree detail on their mountings. Sapphires were very popular during the Edwardian era and appear on many rings from the time.
  • Victorian Era (1835-1900): Frequently made in yellow or rose gold, Victorian rings range from simple elegant designs to more intricate artworks. Many Victorian rings have multiple rows of mine-cut diamonds. Victorian rings often include pearls in addition to diamonds.

Contemporary rings differ from their vintage counterparts in a number of important respects. For example, colored gemstones (rubies, emeralds, and sapphires) are more common as the center stone in vintage rings. Contemporary rings more frequently feature white diamonds as their center stones.

promise ring vintage

Time to Pick Your Promise Ring

Consider that special person in your life. Does he or she go crazy for retro fashion from the roaring 20s? An Art Deco Era vintage ring might be the right pick. Does he or she love classical elegance from an earlier age, or want a unique ring with vibrant colors? Choose a Victorian or Edwardian-Era ring.

In other cases, a contemporary ring may make the most sense. If you’re looking for something modest and simple, modern channel or bezel set designs may be the way to go. Or perhaps your significant other loves diamonds and wants the ring to have a bit of bling.

Contemporary Promise RIng with Baguette Diamond

Contemporary Promise RIng with Baguette Diamond

Whether you choose to go vintage or contemporary, by picking a promise ring that complements both your promise and your partner’s style, you are honoring the perfect expression of your love.