This fall, the return of children to school (in some form or another) got me thinking about class rings. My class rings are among the jewelry pieces I wear least often, if ever. I have one from high school and one from college, shown below:
My high school ring is very intricate. Set in sterling silver, it features our school’s mascot on one shoulder and crest on the other, an “LP” insignia (for “Lincoln Park”) on a central emerald-shaped prasiolite stone, my initials on either side of the stone, and my graduation year in four segments surrounding the stone. One feature I had forgotten about until now is that my full signature is etched inside the band. Funny to see that hasn’t changed much in 17 years!
My college ring is more modern and simple. It features an oval-shaped center black stone carved with the university shield, my graduation year on one shoulder, and my degree acronym on the other shoulder. It also has my initials etched inside the band.
At some point, I acquired my mom’s high school class ring, which I happen to like better than both of my own:
Hers, which is set in 10k gold, appears to feature the “comedy and drama” masks on either shoulder, her graduation year across a central deep blue stone, and a “C” insignia with a tiny “Davenport” inscription for Central High School in Davenport, Iowa, where she grew up. Her initials are also etched inside her band (that must be a thing). Her ring has some really beautiful art deco waterfall lines:
I remember when the ring catalogs were distributed during senior year of both high school and college. At the time, I thought the rings were an absolute necessity to serve as a lifelong reminder of my academic achievements and glory days (only kidding). But in actuality, my rings have sat in my jewelry box, largely untouched, for years. Why is that?
It’s not because they’re ugly, which they certainly are not. Maybe it’s because they’re too…personal? Too gimmicky? Too tied to a specific place and time to feel relevant today? It’s hard to pinpoint the reason.
The tradition of wearing class rings began at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1835. According to custom, the wearer should face the insignia on the ring inwards while still enrolled in school, and after graduation, the ring can be worn with its insignia facing outwards.
If you’ve ever met someone who graduated from MIT, they might have been wearing the school’s very distinct class ring, shown here:
Although it is affectionately called the “Brass Rat,” this ring depicts a beaver, not a rat, and is made in various alloys of gold, platinum, or stainless steel–not brass. The beaver is MIT’s mascot because it is considered to be “the engineer of the animal world.”
Next time you see someone wearing this ring, you can impress them with your very esoteric factoids.
I scoured the Internet for modern designer versions of class rings, but that appears to be a niche market that doesn’t yet exist. Instead, I leave you with these lovely vintage class rings:
Do you have a class ring? Do you ever wear it? Let me know in the comments!