To answer the question in the title, let us take a look at what traditions say. It is always good to fall back on ancient customs when it comes to these choices because there will be a unique reason behind them.
Tracing the Origin of the Ring Finger, and its Symbolism
A tradition that has shown it has that staying power is this one, concerning the way people in ancient Rome wear their engagement ring. As per the Roman tradition, it was worn on the fourth finger of the left hand because they believed that there is a vein there that runs to the heart. It is called “Vena Amoris”, which translates to the “Vein of Love”.
Of course, people take to this custom even in this day and age, because there is that romantic reason behind their belief. However, the fact is there is no such vein in the human body. At least, people from the world of science dispel it as pure myth, even as they respect people’s traditions. While this applies to engagement rings for women in the US, in some other countries people wear them more on the right-hand ring finger. Those countries where the finger for diamond engagement rings is a more popular choice for bride and groom are Greece, Russia, and Colombia.
The First Engagement Ring in History and its Impact
Ancient engagement rings used to be made up of something that forms a circle of eternity. However, modern engagement rings are made up of precious metals, in addition to uncanny choices that kind of trace back to the vintage times. For instance, wooden engagement rings.
The first documented or known use of an engagement ring with diamond happened way back in the fifteenth century, when Maximilian of Austria gave one with hogback diamonds to Mary of Burgundy. In the modern day, the hogback stones are referred to as baguette cut diamonds. In the first known engagement ring, they were arranged in the form of the letter “M”.
The Archduke’s choice sparked a trend for more than a reason. A diamond has been a symbol of infinite love and commitment that a couple feels for each other. It is the hardest, most durable naturally occurring material found on the Earth, which makes a diamond the ideal choice to symbolize enduring and everlasting love. Each diamond is incredibly unique and rare. Just as a couple’s relationship has its own story to tell, no two diamonds are identical.
Still, diamonds are not a must for engagement rings. They can have other stones too, or whatever else goes with one’s style sense. For instance, Kate Middleton’s engagement ring features a blue sapphire, Jessica Simpson’s ring has a ruby, and Carrie Underwood’s piece has a canary diamond.
Tradition has it that while men propose marriage, women are usually the ones to wear an engagement ring as a token of their acceptance. However, there is no set rule that says men cannot wear engagement rings. With same-sex marriages happening these days, it is not unusual to see men wearing engagement rings as well.
The Promise Ring Finger
Unlike an engagement ring, this one is a tradition that traces back to the sixteenth century that is commonly misunderstood, as it used to represent the promise an engagement would spring. Now, that is not the case all the time, as some couples may not be prepared for an impending marriage but want to show the commitment somehow.
Nowadays, promise rings can have just about any number of meanings; usually, they are the tokens of exclusive relationships and/or love. Gifting such rings has been one of the age-old traditions for those who are in steady relationships, and for symbolizing their love and loyalty to one another. It can mean they have promised to tie the knot at some time in the future. Else, in the case of a purity ring, the couple may have made it a promise to keep chastity until their marriage day.
Some people believe promise rings are pre-engagement pieces, and while they are not always so, they can be. Several times, an engagement ring elicit responses from others concerning everything from the proposal way and date to the day and place the couple plans to get married. If they do not wish to commit themselves into an elaborate wedding, they may opt to exchange a promise ring. After all, it is a sign that marriage is where their relationship is headed ultimately, when they are both ready for that.
So, upon which finger do promise rings go? There is no clear rule for you to follow in this respect. Since this not an official engagement, some couples opt for another finger other than the one on which an engagement ring is worn. If a promise ring is worn on the left hand, the custom is to move it to the right hand after marriage.