In the United States, a class ring (also known as a graduation, graduate, senior, or grad ring) is a ring worn by students and alumni to commemorate their graduation, generally for a high school, college, or university.
Today class rings can be customized, from the material and style that the ring is made of to the color and cut of the gem in the center. There is a wide selection of emblems, pictures, and words that can be added to the sides of the rings and even inside the center gem.
The "Complete Book of Etiquette" by Amy Vanderbilt indicates the following protocol for wearing of a class ring. For as long as the wearer is in school, the insignia should face the wearer to remind them of the goal of graduation. Upon graduation, the class ring gains the status of a "badge of honor" similar to a diploma, with the effect that graduation entitles the wearer to display the insignia facing outward so that it faces other viewers. An additional justification for this practice is the rationale that the ring also symbolizes the graduate themself: during the wearer's time in school, they focus on self-development and goals specific to the insular academic environment; upon graduation, the wearer enters the wider world and puts what they have learned to work in shaping it.
A notable exception to this protocol is the custom followed by older graduating classes of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Today, as in years past, Academy graduates frequently wear their rings on the left hand in observance of the ancient belief, which also underlay the Anglo-American custom of wearing wedding bands on the left hand, that a vein connects the left ring finger to the heart. Prior to graduation, these classes wore the USMA Class Ring with the Class Crest closest to the heart, signifying a given cadet's bond to his class within the Academy. Following graduation, members of these classes wore (and, for surviving members, still wear) the ring with the Academy Crest closest to the heart, signifying their bond with the Academy as a whole.
Several institutions accept donated class rings from alumni for melting and incorporation into future class rings:
- The Citadel
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- United States Air Force Academy
- United States Coast Guard Academy
- United States Merchant Marine Academy
- United States Military Academy
- United States Naval Academy
In popular culture
Author Pat Conroy graduated from The Citadel and wrote The Lords of Discipline, a novel centered around a cadet's senior-year journey at a fictional military college in Charleston, South Carolina, its opening passage expressing the class ring's significance to a graduate's identity: "I wear the ring. I wear the ring and I return often to the city of Charleston, South Carolina, to study the history of my becoming a man."
In the song Teen Angel, the female protagonist is killed when trying to collect her boyfriend’s high school ring from a car that has stalled on a railway track.
- Aggie Ring
- Doctoral ring
- Iron ring
- MIT class ring
- The Citadel Ring
- United States Military Academy class ring
- "Custom class rings". CR. Retrieved March 3, 2016.
- "Ring melt ceremony bonds past with the future". United States Military Academy.
- Complete Book of Etiquette, Amy Vanderbilt, p. 156
- CLASS RINGS, MINIATURES, AND A-PINS The traditional Jewish custom is to wear a wedding ring on the right index finger, and only women wore them originally. However, most Jewish people will move rings to reflect the national custom of where they live.
- The Citadel Band of Gold. "The Citadel Band of Gold". www.citadel.edu. The Citadel. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
- MIT Brass Rat Melt Project. "MIT Brass Rat Melt Project".
- West Point Association. "Class Ring Memorial Program". www.westpoint.org. Retrieved April 15, 2016.
- United States Naval Academy Alumni Association and Foundation. "Bonds of Gold". www.usna.com. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
- "The Citadel Alumni Association, Our Ring". www.citadelalumni.org/. The Citadel Alumni. Retrieved November 13, 2015.
Media related to Class rings at Wikimedia Commons