Engagement Ring vs. Wedding Ring: What’s the Difference?

Once you or someone close to you decide to tie the knot, you may begin to realize that there’s a lot of wedding traditions. Although it is obvious to some, many don’t know about the difference between unique engagem and wedding rings. Despite the terms sometimes being used interchangeably, they are actually quite different. In this article, I’ll set the record straight by providing a deeper look at each type of ring. How are these rings different from one another? Are both necessary? What is their meaning? These questions and more are all answered here.

Wedding Rings

Wedding rings have been a valued tradition since ancient times. According to historians, circles were a symbol of eternal love in ancient Egypt. Rings made from reed and hemp were worn specifically on the fourth finger of the left hand. Egyptians believed that this finger had a vein that directly connected to the heart. This idea was later passed down to other cultures. In ancient Rome, the Latin term “vena amoris” (meaning vein of love) was created. The Romans also began using more durable elements for these rings such as iron and later gold. As weddings became more formalized, the importance of these rings continued to grow. Today, wedding rings are an essential wedding tradition.

unique rings

(Image Courtesy of Allure)

Types of Wedding Rings

Wedding rings, or wedding “bands”, as they are often referred to, are available in a wide range of colors and styles. From white gold to yellow gold, rose gold, and platinum, wedding bands come in a variety of stunning metals. Some people choose to adorn them with accent diamonds or small gemstones, though many often opt to save these lavish touches for the engagement rings.

Engagement Rings

Historically, engagement rings came into play thousands of years after wedding rings. Archduke Maximilian of Austria was the first person to use a diamond engagement ring. This happened in 1477, when he proposed to Mary of Burgundy. In the 1600s, Shakespeare referenced both engagement rings and wedding rings in one of his plays, indicating that the traditions had become more commonplace in society. Today, the engagement ring is the most important aspect of a proposal.

Engagement Ring vs Wedding Ring

(Image Courtesy of Cosmopolitan)

Types of Engagement Rings

Diamond engagement rings are undoubtedly the most popular option today, to the point that the gemstone has become synonymous with the ring. It’s a piece of jewelry that many dream of as little children. It certainly represents one of the most beautiful ways to say “I love you.” While they have always been adored, diamond engagement rings didn’t become popular until the 1800s when large deposits of the precious stone were found across South Africa (and other African countries later on).  There are numerous shape options for diamonds, including round, princess, and pear, as well as many different colors, cuts, and sizes.

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Despite being the traditional choice, diamonds aren’t the only type of gemstones found on engagement rings. This is especially true in recent years, as ruby, emerald, and pearl engagement rings have slowly become more and more popular among brides. For some, diamonds engagement rings are unimaginative and old-school. Putting a different gemstone is an opportunity to make the ring more unique and one-of-a-kind.

pearl engagement ring

Beautiful Akoya Pearl & Diamond Solar Ring

Engagement Ring vs. Wedding Ring

Here are some of the differences between engagement and wedding rings.


In addition to differences in design, the rings are also distinct in timing.  Engagement rings are offered at the proposal. Wedding rings are given at the wedding ceremony as the bride and groom exchange their vows. In addition, both the bride and the groom usually receive wedding bands. While it’s not the norm just yet, it’s becoming more and more common to exchange engagement rings as well.


Engagement rings are quite extravagant, decorated with a dazzling center stone that truly makes a statement. Wedding rings, on the other hand, are typically a lot more simple and subtle. Though wedding rings can feature small accent diamonds or other gemstones along the band, they are seldom adorned with a larger one like an engagement ring.


Both of these rings have distinct stylistic features.

Wedding Rings

Different wedding ring features can make them look classic, modern, or even vintage. A classic wedding ring has a simple and timeless aesthetic. It usually comes as a single band, perfect circle without any additional details besides diamonds. A modern style ring, on the other hand, features more unique takes on it, such as entwined bands or a contoured ring shape. Everyone knows vintage-inspired wedding rings for their unique details that add a romantic touch. Some of them include marquise-shaped frames, floral-inspired engravings, and milgraIn borders. One particularly popular type of wedding rings is the eternity band, which features diamonds wrapped all the way around the finger. Eternity bands are available for all three styles we talked about earlier.

Engagement Rings

Engagement rings can also be classic, modern, or vintage, albeit slightly differently. The center stone plays a considerable role in the style of this ring. A traditional engagement ring is also one of the most popular ones is the classic solitaire setting. It features a single center stone. The diamond is typically secured by prongs that allow the gemstone to reflect from all angles. Contemporary engagement ring details can include a bezel setting, which hugs the center stone, or a halo, which adds a layer of diamonds around the center. Modern rings are great for someone who is looking for a more glamorous look that stands out. Similar to vintage-inspired wedding rings, engagement rings are also decorated with various details and patterns along the band. However, they also feature vintage touches on the center stone. These include unique shapes as well as the use of gemstones other than diamonds.

gold pearl engagement ring

Golden South Sea Pearl & Diamond Shelby Ring

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Despite both rings having similar features, the way they actualize themselves is quite different. Here is a picture that shows exactly that.

engagement and wedding rings

(Image Courtesy of Brides Magazine)

Metal and Color

For both wedding rings and engagement rings, there are a variety of colors to choose from. However, some of them are more popular than the others. The color of a wedding ring is dependent on the metal that’s used for it. White, yellow, and rose gold are most common for almost all designs. Although, white-gold is undoubtedly the most popular. Platinum is another metal option that is available. Though it is very similar to white gold in terms of color, platinum properties such as shine and durability make it a higher quality metal.

Everything said above is also true for engagement rings. They’re offered in all the metals mentioned above. White gold is the most liked as well. However, with engagement rings, you also need to choose the color for the center stone. White diamonds are the most traditional choice here, but yellow, pink, and blue diamonds are exciting new options. The same is true for other gemstones. While white pearls are the classic choice,  feature exotic shades of green, blue, and black that are perfect for those who’re looking for something different.

engagement ring tips

Tahitian South Sea Pearl & Diamond Sea Breeze Ring


Generally speaking, engagement rings are more expensive than weddings rings because of the gemstones they have. That said, a lavish wedding ring adorned with diamonds can cost more than a simple engagement ring with a plain band and a small center stone. For both rings, platinum is the most expensive metal option. For engagement rings, the center stone dramatically influences the cost of the ring. Regardless if it’s a diamond, pearl, or ruby, the size and grade (or quality) of a center stone both play a significant role in the price of it.

pearl rings

(Image Courtesy of Video Blocks)

Do You Need Both?

This is another question that many people aren’t completely sure about. While there isn’t a single “correct” answer, I’ll clear things up by exploring a couple of different perspectives. To begin, there are those who believe that every aspect of a wedding should stay true to longstanding wedding traditions. Having both an engagement ring and a wedding band is the only option for this group because each ring has its own distinct purpose, meaning, and memory tied to it.

READ MORE:  Wedding Traditions: The History of Wedding Jewelry

Others, however, believe that traditions like this one are unnecessary and outdated. The question for them is simple: what’s the need for a wedding ring when I already have an engagement ring that I couldn’t love more? Weddings are also extremely costly, so avoiding the purchase of a wedding ring can also help couples save some money.

Both of these are very valid viewpoints that are difficult to argue against. At the end of the day, there is no wrong answer to this question and it’s ultimately a matter of preference. Having two rings obviously allows for more flexibility (which we talk about below), but in no way is it a necessity.

Should You Wear Both Engagement and Wedding Ring?

If you decide to purchase both an engagement ring and a wedding ring, the question is now how you’re going wear them. Both on the big day and after the wedding.

Wearing Both Rings on the Wedding Day

Let’s begin with the wedding day. According to tradition, immediately before the wedding ceremony, the bride switches the engagement ring onto the ring hand. This happens so that the wedding ring can be put on the regular finger during the ceremony. Afterward, the bride puts the engagement ring back on the usual finger, above the wedding ring.

Wearing the Rings after the Wedding

But how do you wear the rings after the wedding? Some decide to wear the rings together on the same finger. In many cases, the engagement ring and wedding ring are brought together as a matching set. Not only does this ensure that the rings complement each other as far as their style, but also that their shapes fit together. The set is usually comfortable to wear. The wedding band is always worn under the engagement ring so that it’s closer to the heart, an idea we touched upon earlier.

wedding ring tips

(Image Courtesy of Pixabay)

Others, however, might decide to wear only one ring at a time. For example, some prefer to wear the engagement ring just for special occasions, most notably anniversaries. Engagement rings are often worth thousands of dollars and feature intricate gemstones that aren’t practical for everyday use. Wearing a lavish engagement ring on a regular basis makes it susceptible to the ring getting damaged. Wedding bands are much better for daily use in this sense.


At first glance, it’s easy to understand the confusion about the differences between these two rings. Though they are both centered around love, we’ve learned how engagement and wedding rings are quite distinct from one another, with separate histories, designs, and meanings.





Source: https://www.thepearlsource.com/

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