Mr. Cubic Zirconia here, dear reader. 

I was asked in an email  “When should I buy my girlfriend a promise ring when we've been dating for a year?”.

Talk about a loaded question!  

Women are sly. 

And the wording of that question might make you, too, wonder if this is a case of the old “asking for a friend” gimmick.

But rather than get judgy, I’m just gonna give a straight reply.

Before we get into the more complicated answer for “how long a couple should be dating before he/she should expect to gift/receive a promise ring?”, let’s say this gent simply wants to know WHEN-- as in the best date or month of the year for promise ring gifts.

When in the year to give a promise ring

Our full-service jewelry company sells more promise rings in January than any other month.

It isn’t even close.

No surprise, since most of our precious metal fine jewelry pieces require a few weeks to manufacture after purchase and -- at least in the English-speaking world-- Valentine's Day, February 14, is the most popular single day of the year to gift a promise ring

My anecdotal evidence as a jewelry store owner would say the second-most popular day is Christmas December 25 (because of a flurry of November purchases). 

And from speaking with customers over the years, I’d guess that a close third-most-popular day to give a promise ring would be the floating holiday otherwise known as your girlfriend’s birthday. That also gives you an easy way to make a promise ring more customized to her, since some jewelers make it easy to personalize a ring with birthstone colors relating to the month of her birth.

The Ring before The Ring

A promise ring can also be called a “pre ring” or “pre-engagement ring” and has most often historically been a symbol of monogamy. 

In recent times, it’s that too. Plus it’s a gift that says:

  • “Hey, we’re doing this together.”
  • “Not ready for a wedding, but at least we’re thinking about it.”
  • “I’m not actively dating anyone else or looking for a date with anyone else”. 

AKA the ring before the ring, so to speak. 

The promise ring has a long and cherished history. 

In fact, the tradition has been a part of Western culture for many more years than the more well-known and highly-hyped engagement ring. 

Promise Ring vs Engagement Ring (Either, Or, Both?)

I won’t complain that the engagement ring is more well-known, of course. 

My company makes and sells high-quality Cubic Zirconia engagement rings to folks all around the world every day! It’s a big chunk of our business.

Truthfully-- though we make and sell promise rings, too-- for probably 7 out of 10 men the first “ring” of any kind that they give a woman they think they might marry ‘someday’ is an engagement ring rather than a pre-ring / promise ring.

Men dating are far more likely to give a girlfriend a pair of earrings, a pendant, bracelet, necklace, or locket than any sort of ring. In my opinion, that’s likely because the ‘ring’ has a heightened importance for ladies-- some of whom have marriage on her mind.

You have to realize that for some women, the perception in her head is that it’s like Frodo and the mountain of fire: there is only ONE ring, and that ring is the engagement ring. 

If your lady love is one of these, well you have your work cut out for you asking her to accept the promise ring as a symbol of your “commitment before the commitment”. 

I would recommend reading up a little on the history of promise rings before you do. 

And take a look at our list below of 8 reasons to give a promise ring-- see if any of these best times to give a promise ring apply to your situation and to hers.

If you do choose to give a promise ring, note that there’s a natural order to giving multiple rings: promise ring first, engagement ring second, and wedding ring third (sometimes the wedding ring is given as a set with engagement ring). 

Frankly, I advise guys to stretch it out a bit and gift each individually. 

Promise Ring Timing- When to Give the Gift of a Promise Ring

How long a couple should be dating before he/she should expect to gift/receive a promise ring? As noted before, the answer to that loaded question is NEVER. It’s just not expected in today’s day and age-- UNLESS your couple’s situation may meet any of the few criteria listed below.

Still, if you want to do it I wouldn’t do it too early. If you give her a promise ring after only a few weeks or months of dating, she might just laugh it off.  And I wouldn’t do it 7 years into dating either-- especially if you know she’s already thinking about and/or talking about marriage with you or other friends. 5+ years is more engagement-ring expectation timing. Though I do know men who dated for five years, gave her a promise ring, and proposed with an engagement ring 2 years later for a total of 7 years into the relationship; it worked out for those couples, but the ladies in question did hear some shitty comments about her ‘commitment-phone boyfriend’ from people around them).

The person asking the question that started today’s article wanted to know when to give a promise ring AFTER a year of dating, though.

Those time dating notes above are just opinions, ok? Not facts. If I were you, brother, I wouldn’t let myself or anyone else influence you too much on timing. 

If a year feels right, go for it. Whether it’s after a year, two years, three or four years of dating, I think it’s an appropriate gift. 

As jewelers, my wife Mrs. Cubic Zirconia and I tend to think it’s less about time spent dating and more about the circumstances of the couple. 

If your circumstances are described by the 8 reasons to give a promise ring listed below-- maybe it’s a good thing to do. Otherwise, like we’ve said before: most women don’t expect one, and most men don’t give one. So skip it if you want!

I myself did not do a promise ring. In fact, my future wife-- now known as Mrs. Cubic Zirconia-- proposed to me before I could propose to her. Long story, another day. Talk about standing convention in its head!  Had I gone with a promise ring, I think that would not have happened. I just wasn’t ready, you know? 

Frankly, a promise ring might have bridged the gap for a year or three when I knew I wanted her and only her…but I wasn’t thinking of getting married and wouldn’t have bought an engagement ring. I made sure to flip the script, though, and create a great proposal story for her later with a good surprise when I decided to get engaged. 

But let’s say you ARE considering a gift of a promise ring.

Should you do it?
  Will she expect it?
    Is it worth the bother?

IMHO, it depends.

8 reasons to Give A Promise Ring

  • 1. Temp check the idea of marriage
  • While it can seem old-fashioned to some people, one way a man can temperature-check how a girlfriend might feel about marriage is to give her a promise ring. 

    She’s a modern, educated, confident woman who knows what she wants-- and she knows a promise ring in this day and age is considered a “pre-engagement ring”. If she doesn’t think you’re marriage material, I’d be willing to bet she'll be woman enough to tell you so with her reaction to the gift of a promise ring.

  • 2. Because you know she just loves jewelry
  • If your lady love is a jewelry lover who regularly buys herself bling and wears two or more pieces just about every day, then the man in her life ought to be looking for reasons to surprise her with something shiny that sparkles. 

    A promise ring after 1-4 years of dating fits the bill-- IF you as the man feel pretty confident you’ll probably ask her to marry you in the next 6-24 months.

    What to buy the jewelry lover? A traditional round-cut center stone on the ring is good and always a safe choice. But nothing about a promise ring says it must have stones at all. A plain metal band could serve the purpose of a promise ring. If you want a ring with a center sparkler, however, and the wearer already buys her own jewelry…we recommend going for a promise ring with a popular heart cut or a modern cushion cut. These center stone shape options are far more commonly-set in promise rings in our experience than in engagement rings-- and both are absolutely gorgeous stones (see 5A cubic zirconia stone shape videos at this link).

  • 3. Buying time with “the ring before the ring”
  • Maybe you’re just not ready for a wedding, but you do feel like a commitment is in order. Also sometimes known as the “pre-engagement ring”, a promise ring might be just the ticket.

    Many a modern man has used this gift to buy some time before an engagement ring, proposal, and march towards matrimony might be expected.

    Just be sure you’re able to promise monogamy if that’s important to her.

    And that you’re looking ahead to an engagement in the next year or two.

  • 4. Testing her reception to a diamond alternative
  • Our minimum price for promise rings is around $150 USD. We have a sale once every couple years  where some of the simplest styles can even be gotten for < $100. For most people reading this, that ain’t a super-expensive purchase.

    So it follows that an inexpensive promise ring could be a “testing the waters” purchase for a gentleman that doesn’t like, can’t afford, or wishes he didn’t have to purchase a diamond engagement ring. Give her the precious-metal-plus-quality-cubic-zirconia promise ring from CubicZirconia.com, tell her it’s a promise ring and see what her reaction is.

    If her reaction is 100% positive, you’re probably also safe to give a diamond alternative engagement ring, too, when the time comes. 

    If there’s any negative thinking, you can promise to take her desires into account with the future engagement ring…or prepare yourself to have a tough talk. The discussion with your future spouse about a non-diamond engagement ring can be a tough conversation when society has a certain expectation but you want to do something different. We call that discussion being "between a rock and a hard place". This article we wrote will provide a few ideas and resources to help couples talk through the options for a non-mined-diamond alternative jewelry piece.

  • 5. Her culture expects it (Catholics especially)
  • The promise ring is a cherished tradition for many cultures (but not all.)

    If she’s ever talked about the concept before, she may expect one.

    That’s especially true if her religion and family culture expects a promise ring.

    In some religions it’s very common for a relationship to proceed from dating to a promise of monogamy symbolized by a promise ring. Catholicism for instance-- in some U.S. families, sure but even higher percentages among Catholic families living in or having ethnicity from Mexico and Latino areas, Brazil, Italy, France, and Poland a promise ring is extremely common.

    Often these girls were given or chose a purity ring for themselves, too, when they were younger, but not always (a purity ring and a promise ring could be the same ring style but worn or given for different reasons). That's the best-case scenario for you as the guy who’s thinking of giving his girl a promise ring: she knows what it is and it’s a part of her environment with friends or her family/culture expectations.

     If so, she’ll be most delighted with whatever promise ring you decide to give and whenever.

  • 6. Living together with traditional families
  • A promise ring can sometimes make moving in together more palatable to traditional families. We’ve talked about this extensively in other articles-- how an engagement ring or promise ring can buy a couple some time in the eyes of parents and grandparents who might otherwise frown on the couple’s desire to live together before marriage.

  • 7. An increased commitment before a time of separation
  • Promise rings for high-school sweethearts going off to different colleges have been common for many years. In the same way, if a couple is dating a few years and has something that will separate them physically from each other for a period of time-- whether it’s military, job opportunity, school-related or other-- a promise ring can be a very appropriate and appreciated gift.

    In these cases, it isn’t just a metal circle you’re giving: the exchange of a promise ring also offers one another the gift of a greater commitment, increased intimacy and a shared vision for the future when the two of them plan to come back together (hopefully soon!)..

  • 8. Underage for Marriage
  • If the two of you are 16-22 years old, promise rings are very common. 

    And socially very acceptable. 

    People will treat you like you’re engaged, but there’s no legal commitment. 

    To most adults, you’re still just kids!

    In fact, it’s some educated people’s opinions-- including mine-- that people this age aren’t often emotionally ready for marriage. Sorry if that offends you but the stats tell it true: weddings at these young and tender ages more often end in divorce. 

    If there’s no pressure from either of you, why not relax, take it slow and let the good times roll with a promise ring? The couple might decide an engagement and a wedding are for them-- or they might step aside from a cliff before taking the plunge.

    How to Give A Promise Ring

    Whether you choose to give a promise ring as a prep step before an engagement ring— or a standalone gift that has meaning of its own in your culture, or in your relationship, I hope these answers can help.

    For most promise ring customers, purchasing a promise ring is a way to show you're ready to ease into wedding conversations and create a shared future.

    You don't have to get down on one knee to present one, but a thoughtful purchase and timely gift can be a romantic gesture toward your future plans

    To be clear: you should NOT get down on one knee to give her a promise ring.

    Really, one of the greatest things about whatever you choose to give and when, is to create a surprise that delights your gift recipient.

    JUST FYI that after giving a promise ring, if all is going well it's customary to formalize the engagement with an engagement ring within 18 months.

    If and when you do buy and give her a promise ring, fellas...just a piece of advice in case she’s one of the ladies who believes, like Frodo, in THE ONE RING: when you give her the ring, however you do it, you should move quickly to set her expectations by saying something like this: 

    • “I didn’t think the time was right for an engagement proposal” 
    • “We can both tell this thing of ours is great and moving towards serious” 
    • “I bought you a promise ring as a symbol of this commitment and hope for our future.” 

    If you do it like that and you use the phrase “promise ring” right up front, you’re good.

    IN ALL SERIOUSNESS, when you give her a promise ring, to avoid disappointment, confusion or dismemberment, the first 5 words out of your mouth should be:  

    “This is a promise ring”.

    Trust me, Frodo: you don’t want a mountain of fire rained down on your behind. 

    If you’re at all intrigued by the idea of affordable, artificial stones that are visually indistinguishable from flawless clear diamonds to the naked eye— our team would be happy to help you further at CubicZirconia.com. 

    We offer a number of promise rings and our company service motto is “promises made, promises kept, patient help without pushiness”. 

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