In today’s times, promise rings are considered to be practical, spiritual, controversial and/or even degrading. It all depends on the person and their personal beliefs as well as the culture they were raised in. For many, however, promise rings are a celebration of someone’s personal decision to abstain from sexual activity until they are married.
Also known as “purity rings,” promise rings for women are the most common type of promise ring and are more traditional, although some men in modern times choose to wear them as well. Many sources agree that purity rings are a relatively modern invention and really got their start in the early 1990s under the Bush Administration, which promoted safe sex education and abstinence among teenagers.
Although promise rings for women can be given as gifts (or purchased by the woman herself) without any fanfare, there are many women who don the rings for the first time in a sort of party of ceremony when they are in their early teenage years. Colloquially referred to as “purity balls,” “father-daughter purity balls,” or even “purity weddings,” these events are ceremonies in which a father (traditionally) gives the promise ring to his daughter to wear. These events can range from big, ball-like parties with multiple father-daughter pairs or small gatherings of family and friends. Though details of the events may vary, it typically involves the daughter making a pledge to remain sexually abstinent until she is married while her father makes a pledge to protect her purity of mind, body and soul.
The vast majority of purity balls are Christian in nature, and in fact most ceremonies incorporate Christian elements. Many Christian promise rings for women come with small images of crosses and/or other religious symbols. Some also have quotes from the Bible engraved in them. Aside from Bible quotes and references, other commonly seen engravings are “True Love Waits,” “Chastity,” “One Life One Love,” “Protected Heart,” “Abstinence” and “My Path My Choice.” “True Love Waits” is actually such a popular engraving that some retailers advertise promise rings as “True Love Waits Rings.”
Promise rings can come in virtually any color and style, although the vast majority of promise rings today are silver in color and have a simple design. Sterling silver promise rings for women and men are very popular, although designs may vary among those for each gender. The ones for men may have an engraving or image of a cross, but usually no elaborate designs or multiple colors.
The market is bigger among promise rings for women. Simple promise rings for women are of course available, but those marketed toward them often come in more detail and have greater design options. Many have heart shapes included or other symbols that represent love. Celtic promise rings for women have become increasingly popular, and these also are offered in a variety of designs that can be incorporated with other shapes and symbols. Some promise rings for women even include a small diamond or two— although some of course are more fancy. Diamond promise rings for women can often look similar to engagement rings, but the rocks are usually on a smaller scale. Although most rings are monochromatic, some have birthstones included to better represent the specific person who is wearing the ring.
When it comes down to it of course, promise rings for women really are just jewelry. Rather, it is the purity pledge itself that is meant to have meaning. Because rings are a form of jewelry, however, some young women may be willing to take a purity pledge but feel that rings don’t really suit them. In this case they can choose not to wear the ring, or other jewelry options can be sought out. Many of the same jewelry retailers that offer promise rings for women also offer purity necklaces as well as purity bracelets that can be personalized in the same way as their ring counterparts.
Fancy or not though, promise rings for women can be quite expensive, and depending on where someone lives it can be challenging to find quality promise rings for women under 100 dollars. Fortunately, some large discount retailers are now carrying promise rings. For example, Walmart promise rings often come at a fraction of the typical cost, usually because they have discount deals set up with jewelers. This can be especially appealing to families that may have more than one young woman who is about to take a purity pledge. Local churches where promise rings are popular among members may also keep lists of reliable ring vendors.
Many groups criticize promise rings for women as being sexist and not a reasonable or very effective form of protection against sexually transmitted diseases, saying that most ring-wearers do not actually end up keeping their pledges. Among this criticism are also statements that say many young women want promise rings just because their friends are getting them, or even just for their visual appeal as jewelry. There are nevertheless many other people who are in favor of promise rings and their corresponding purity pledges. Some also believe that promise rings for women are a form of inspiration to stay true to one’s personal beliefs amid a society filled with peer pressure. Famous wearers and proponents of promise rings include singer Jordin Sparks, the Jonas Brothers, singer and actress Selena Gomez and singer Demi Lovato.
Of course, the term “promise rings” does not necessarily apply to one type of ring. In fact, there are promise rings for couples, men and women that often have very different meanings than saving one’s virginity. For example, some promise rings for women are given to them by their significant others. Not to be confused with an engagement ring, this promise ring can simply be a celebration of the relationship and the couple’s devotion to each other, whether or not they are ready just yet for marriage. Of course, some people do actually choose to refer to this type of promise ring as a “pre-engagement ring.”