The purity ring is a simple symbol worn by many teens and young adults to signify that they intend to practice abstinence and chastity. Many think of these rings as having been invented in the 1990s, and promoted especially by Christian groups to encourage the teaching of and celebration of remaining in the virginal state. The origin of these rings, however, may date much farther back to the use of rings when some women would become nuns; the ring might symbolize a marriage to Christ.
Though more commonly worn by women, there are some men that also don the purity ring. Rings are usually worn on the left hand of the ring finger, as something of a placeholder until replaced by a marriage ring. Once married, a person might not continue to wear his or her ring, though some couples exchange rings on their wedding night.
There may be special ceremonies associated with getting a purity ring. A young woman or man might make a pledge to God, in the presence of family or friends, to abstain from sexual intercourse prior to marriage. Sometimes purity rings are given to daughters at purity balls, which are father/daughter dance events. It is not necessary for the ring to be a ring; there are also chastity necklaces and bracelets too.
Price on purity rings can vary. Silver rings may be inexpensively purchased, while elaborately designed gold ones can be expensive. Parents who intend to give a purity ring to a young teen may then want to consider the durability of the ring. A very inexpensive one may not hold up for the five or more years that it may be worn.
Some people feel uncomfortable with the concept of advertising virginity in this manner. Most etiquette specialists feel it is inappropriate to inquire whether or not a person has been sexually active, and that it is really not the business of any other person. On the other hand, many say the purity ring is a symbol to potential dates that there can no expectation of intercourse, and this helps retain the vow of chastity until marriage. In addition, some people feel that a purity ring is a symbol to other young people that it's OK not to be sexually active.
If a person who wears a purity ring breaks their vow prior to marriage, there are several options. He or she might remove the ring, which could be greatly shaming in a predominantly Christian community. It may be possible for a young person to recommit him or herself, however, and pledge to be chaste from that point forward.