Graduation Rings

graduation ring

Attending higher education is a formative time in anyone’s life. Graduating is one of the most memorable moments for young people, worth commemorating. The advent of graduation rings, often called class rings, originated in America and rapidly became very popular in many countries. If someone you know is approaching their own graduation, whether it’s of secondary school or university, consider a graduation ring as your way of congratulating them.

Image courtesy of Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash, CC BY CC0 1.0

What is a Graduation Ring?

wearing graduation rings
Image courtesy of Tai’s Captures on Unsplash, CC BY CC0 1.0

The tradition of wearing a graduation ring, or class ring, was started by the Military Academy at West Point in 1835. The New York branch of the Military Academy chose to have rings made up with the Academy’s insignia on them, an easy way to show their unity and pride in their school. The style caught on quick, and before long Military Academies across the US were wearing class rings.

In the UK, class rings and graduation rings are not a common gift, which only adds to their appeal. It has become popular to give graduates a little something as a memento of the day, although a gift as specific as a class ring is a more unique choice.

Typically, graduation rings feature an insignia with the school or university’s emblem, similar to a signet ring. Alternatively, some graduation rings are engraved with the school’s name as well as the date of the student’s graduation. In the last few years, with a lot of graduation ceremonies being delayed or cancelled altogether, graduation rings have presented a way to celebrate that is pandemic-friendly.

How to Wear a Graduation Ring

There are two ways to give and wear graduation rings. The more common way in the UK is for the ring to be a gift at the point of graduation. In this instance, the recipient can wear the ring on either hand, with the emblem of their university or school facing outwards. Historically, Military Academy members have worn their class rings on the ring finger of their left hand. This was in accordance with the ancient myth that the veins in the ring finger connect straight to the heart. This is also why wedding rings are worn on this finger.

The second way to give graduation rings, however, involves gifting quite a bit earlier. Class rings are given to a student upon their admission to the institution. In this case, the student traditionally wears the ring with the school’s emblem facing inward towards their palm. The intention here is to keep the end goal in the student’s mind. School is a time for self-reflection and self-improvement. After graduation, they can turn the emblem to face outwards as a badge of honour for their achievements.

Graduation Rings for Him

The first graduation rings set the stage for the look of those that came after. Taking inspiration from signet rings, they have large shanks and convex faces. The school’s motto is often engraved around the edge of the face, while its logo or emblem dominates the face of the ring. As well as this, the date of graduation is usually involved as well. Sometimes, for very prestigious academies, the date of the school’s origin is also engraved.

vintage graduation ring
yellow gold signet ring

This vintage 1971 class ring commemorates Rock Hill High School in South Carolina, USA. Class rings like this one are personalised to the student in subtle ways. This ring, for example, features the High School’s football mascot, a bearcat, on one shoulder. The suggestion here is that perhaps this ring’s original owner was a member of the high school football team.

If you’re interested in class rings that are more subtle, there are other options for you. Signet rings in general are easily customised to suit any upcoming graduate. There are also plain bands that can be engraved with significant dates or names according to their needs.

Graduation Rings for Her

Although the first class rings were worn by men, the tradition of giving them has extended to female students as well. The class rings for women are usually not as sizeable as the mens’, although there’s no-one stopping you from getting a large-and-in-charge ring for your female graduate. Typically, however, their graduation rings are still very ornate. The school or university’s colours are used in the gemstones in these rings.

Signet rings are another good choice for personalising this ring, and there are a lot of slimline signet rings that would be perfect. Equally, using rings with thick bands are a great choice for women who prefer their jewellery to be bigger. These rings allow the customisation to extend all the way around the ring. If you have a long message to convey but you know a large ring isn’t for you, opt for engravings on the inside of the shank.

sapphire graduation ring
Graduation Rings for Her

As Brits, we often try to give overtly American traditions a wide berth. In this case, however, it seems that graduation rings are a trend that should cross the pond to us. Not only are they a great way to express your pride in the graduate you know, but they can become heirlooms that they can hold onto forever. What do you think of the graduate ring?

The author’s views are entirely their own and may not always reflect the views of AC Silver.

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