Class rings have been a staple of graduation from high school, college, and military academies for decades. However, according to HeffJones, the leading jeweler of class rings and graduation regalia, class rings can be traced back to the Roman times when fellowship rings were popularized by Mark Antony.
Over the centuries, fellowship rings evolved and we now have the modern day class ring. Graduates of high School, college, and military academies purchased these rings not only to show that they have completed the requirements, but also to show affiliation with their institutions long after they’ve moved on.
There are some class rings that are so well recognized that they have permeated popular culture.
The most glaring example of this includes the MIT Brass Rat class ring. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is an innovative university that prioritizes STEM related degree programs. In addition to their science breakthroughs, they also take special interest in designing their class rings every year. The MIT ring has three main components, MIT’s mascot (the beaver), the MIT seal and the class year.
The nickname of the Brass Rat is derived from the resemblance that the beaver mascot has to a rat when it’s carved from gold. This ring is redesigned each year by a committee of students, which means every ring is different.
The West Point military academy is also known for its class ring. Their tradition dates back to 1835 and was the first American school to have class rings. Cadets are able to design their rings several months in advance and can even elect to have their ring made with pieces from class rings that were inherited from mentors or family members who graduated before them.
While each cadet will have a different ring, the one consistent feature across all the rings is the West Point insignia. Interestingly enough, alumni of the school can also choose to donate their rings so that new rings can be made.
High school class rings are making a comeback in 2021. While most high school class rings are of a standard design there are some customizing options, such as metal type, stone, and type. The class ring trend that was popularized in the aughts, is back. This is mostly due to the cancellation of in-person commencement ceremonies that usually represent a student’s transition from student to graduate. Students want a way of showing off their accomplishments and a little bit of their personal style along the way.
A little known fact, according to HerffJones, the tradition also states that while the student is still enrolled in classes, the school’s insignia on the ring should face inward, towards the wearer. Then upon conferral, the ring can be switched with the insignia facing outward for others to see.
Class rings are a personal choice, but they symbolize a commitment to our personal growth and education, but there are other ways to commemorate your accomplishments. Any kind of jewelry is a lovely way to honor yourself or someone you know after graduation.