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From Promise to Eternity: Do you know your rings?

The one thing all rings have in common is the circular shape that forms around the finger, but apart from this, each and every ring is very unique in its own way. Each has its own sentimental meaning and significance to the wearer, but also its own meaning and significance according to history and tradition.

At McGowans, we have over 120 years’ experience in working with all types of rings. We’ve created this short glossy of different types of rings and their significance according to history and tradition to ensure you know what you’re shopping for when searching for the perfect ring.


Otherwise known as infinity rings, eternity rings have long been considered as symbols of devotion and love. The tradition of eternity rings dates to nearly 4000 years ago to Ancient Egypt when husbands would gift them to their wives as a token of love and a reminder of commitment. Nowadays, these rings are popular anniversary gifts that are usually given on the first anniversary. Generally, eternity rings are circular with diamonds or other stones set around the circumference and often worn on the same finger as the engagement ring and wedding band.


Did you know that each month of the year has its own gemstone associated with it? You’ll probably know these as birthstones.  There are various different theories behind the concept of birthstones, one of the most common theories is that a Jewish historian was the first person to make a connection between the 12 months of the year, the 12 zodiac signs, and the 12 gemstones set in the Breastplate of Aaron, a sacred object worn by Jewish priests. It was thought that each gem was connected to a certain month or astrological alignment and the wearer of their birthstone would receive therapeutic benefits for wearing it. Today, birthstone jewellery is commonly gifted on birthdays, probably due to the historical concept. Although wearing birthstones in rings is a popular choice, they can be found in practically every type of jewellery. Check out what your birthstone means here.


You guessed it… wedding rings are of course exchanged between a man and woman on their wedding day, but have you ever wondered when and why did this tradition come to light? The wedding band is the ultimate symbol of eternal love and has been traced back to ancient Egyptian times when they were woven from plants that grew beside the River Nile. These have always been worn on the fourth finger on the left hand as it’s thought that there is a vein in this finger that runs directly to the heart – the ‘vein of love’.  Rings have always been used in marriage as the circular shape represents infinity, it has no beginning or end.


Promise rings are also a symbol of love. You may be starting to think that all of these sound the same, but there are distinct differences, trust us! Promise rings are almost like pre-engagement rings that come before the commitment of marriage. These usually signify engagement in the future, or simply devotion. Most people wear their promise ring on any finger, but it’s common to see them on the right ring finger so they are not confused with engagement rings. But promise rings can also be exchanged between friend too, as a promise to friendship forever.


Having originated in the USA during the 1990s, purity rings are one of the most recent types of rings. They became particularly popular under Bush administration when there was a focus on abstinence for young people and organisations that promoted abstinence and encouraged teens to wear purity rings would receive federal grants. Since then, purity rings – also known as ‘chasity’ or ‘abstinence’ rings – have been worn by unmarried young adults or children, usually amongst the Christian community. These rings predominantly symbolise that the wearer promises to stay pure to others until marriage, but they can also symbolise protection if parents have gifted their children with one.


At McGowans we stock a wide range of rings, from stunning diamond eternity rings, to a huge variety of birthstone rings. Visit us in store in Glasgow or Aberdeen to discover our full collection, or you can view a small selection of our diamond rings here.