Class Rings: 5 Facts About Their History

4e6954bf4161467b9feb4cc885db44b9

Among the things you have collected over your lifetime, chances are that one of them is a class ring.

It may not be your own; the class ring or class rings that you possess may have been passed down to you by relatives.

Or, you may have your very own from high school, vocational school, or college. You may keep it in a jewelry box somewhere or you may wear it proudly to this day.

Although you’ve often admired the class ring you wear or the class rings in your collection, you may not know much about them. Of course, class rings are a beautiful way to remember your time in school and your achievements there, but where did they come from? How did this tradition begin?

To learn more about class rings, read on. You’ll learn a lot about this specific type of jewelry in this informative post. 

1. A Long Tradition

People have been wearing rings for many centuries. The concept of fellowship rings – that is, rings to create a feeling of unity among a group of people – is believed to have started in ancient Egypt. At that time, some groups of people wore rings to show they were connected through religion or class.

Later on, this tradition continued in Rome. Roman soldiers wore rings to show their shared dedication to the military and to the protection of the Roman Empire.

The idea for class rings was inspired by these traditions. The first time class rings became a part of the school experience was in 1835 at the United States Military Academy West Point. That year, for the first time, the administration there gave cadets rings as a symbol of class unity, pride, and their accomplishments upon graduation. West Point graduates still receive and treasure class rings today.

The word spread and soon other colleges and universities followed suit. Soon, institutions like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale offered class rings and today, almost every school does. Students purchase or receive class rings at both the high school and college level.

2. They Used to All Be the Same

For many years, every student of a school received the exact same class ring. Of course, they were offered in different sizes, but the design was the same. Sometimes, the design was the same year after year; other schools altered the rings a bit for each graduating class. However, in all cases, no customization was allowed. 

Today, there are many different options offered for customization. All class rings from a particular institution generally include the name of the school and the year of graduation, but beyond that, students can choose from a number of different styles and can even add personal details to their rings to show their activities and special achievements.

3. The Materials Have Changed

At first, class rings were made out of gold. The original class rings from West Point were just simple gold rings; they were not that fancy by today’s standards, or even by the standards of the time. 

Today, however, class rings can be made out of a number of different materials, and the students each choose the materials they like best. As you might imagine, the cost of the ring can vary based on the materials used, but additionally, the chosen materials are often just due to the future wearer’s personal tastes.

Many students today still choose gold rings but others choose white gold rings, silver rings, or platinum rings instead. 

Styles vary as well. Some students prefer larger rings; others choose smaller, simpler rings instead.

4. Stones Express Personality 

The stones in class rings are usually representative of the school’s colors in almost all cases. However, students can express their personality through the cut and size of their stone. Ring manufacturers offer a wide variety of different cuts and many students struggle to choose among them.

The stones on men’s class rings tend to be larger than the stones on women’s rings, but there is a lot of flexibility in this area for both groups. If you’re shopping for a class ring, don’t rush your decision in this realm; different cuts can drastically change the overall look of your ring.

You can view a variety of different cuts and overall looks in the Class Rings Museum if you are looking for ideas or if you would just like to see the beauty of the many types of rings available. 

5. The Wearing of the Ring

Class rings themselves are a tradition, but there are more traditions to know when it comes to the wearing of these rings. At first, the West Point cadets each wore their class ring on the ring finger of their left hand. However, this caused a conflict with the common tradition of wearing one’s wedding ring there. In time, class rings moved to the ring finger of the right hand. 

Further, most students receive their class rings before their actual graduation. Sometimes they are presented during a senior ring ceremony event. However, if a student has not yet graduated, he or she should wear the ring with the stone and insignia on the palm side of the hand. When graduation day comes, the ring can be turned outward at that point and can be worn in the normal fashion from that day forward. 

Many people pass down class rings for many generations as well. They are a symbol of the accomplishments of those who came before and are something that can be treasured for years to come, even after the people who earned them are long gone.

Class Rings: A Beautiful Tradition

As you can see, class rings are an important part of the school tradition for many people. They are a beautiful way to remember your years in school and the accomplishment of graduating from trade school, high school, college, or university. They have an interesting history and are a way to foster unity among members of a class and the alumni of a school or program. It’s no wonder they have made their way into our culture and they are here to stay.

If you’re interested in reading more great posts about jewelry, check out the Jewelry section of our site.