The History of Class Rings

Article by: Joseph Denaburg

Though the most important ring is in a person’s life is usually a wedding band or an engagement ring, there is one another ring which has sentimental value to those who graduate from high school or college. I am of course referring to a class ring. Class rings are common among high school students and graduate students, and since their establishment, the tradition of class rings has become popular with students in the United States and Canada. It is worn to commemorate someone’s graduation from high school or college and often personalizes the student based on the activities he or she participated in while in school.

The tradition of wearing a class ring was originated in the year 1835.  Almost 180 years ago, the students at the United States Military Academy at West Point were the first ones to wear a class ring. In order to visually display the unity among the group, someone had the idea that everyone in the class should wear a ring with a similar design. Each one of the students wanted to showcase something which would remain as a remembrance of the time they have spent at West Point. From that time onwards creating class rings has been tradition for every graduating class of West Point as a representation of unity, and over time, it is a practice that has become common at all major high schools and universities.

For several years, class rings were created with uniform design and shaped for a particular school. As time passed, some institutions provided the students with the option of customization. The name and emblem of the institution would remain in the standard design, but there was now an option of adding the student’s name and other details that identify with the wearer.

Traditional class rings were made in gold, but now they can be ordered in various metals including silver, gold, or platinum. Gold rings with a satin finish will show the entire piece in gold with cuts to highlight the names and design. Rings with antique finishes use a black enamel to highlight the details; higher-end rings are often made in platinum.

The stone used on the ring will be of the same color for all the students of a particular school. However, the cut and the size of the stone can be ordered as per each person’s liking. The size of the ring will obviously differ for each person, and there is usually a slight design difference between the rings of males and females. The rings for males tend to be bit bigger in design that those designed for females.

The history of the ring also carries some traditions with it. A class ring is usually worn on the ring finger of the right hand. This counters the common tradition of wearing wedding rings on the left ring finger. It is also customary that the insignia on the ring should face inward towards the wearer while he or she is enrolled in school. After graduation, the ring can be worn with its insignia facing outwards. The rings of famous institutions are much cherished and are even handed over as heirloom.

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