Pride, friendship, and solidarity — these are just a few of the reasons that class rings remain popular among high school and college graduates.
Class rings are a classy, historical way to show your love for your alma mater. They’re less common today than in yesteryear, which only makes them more distinguished. Even if you love the idea of a class ring, though, you might not know how to wear a class ring or the etiquette that surrounds them.
If you want to live the tradition of class rings, keep reading. You’ll learn the deep meanings behind class rings, how to wear one properly, and what makes them so special after all.
History of Class Rings
Some argue that the tradition of wearing class rings started in antiquity. Cleopatra was rumored to have given a special ring to Mark Antony, who replicated it so that he could give matching rings to the Praetorian Guard. This may have been one of the first examples of using rings to show membership in an elite group.
Since then, though, class rings have become a uniquely American tradition. First used by West Point Military Academy in 1835, class rings were quickly adopted by other important schools. However, West Point was the first to use rings with the same design to show that students graduated from the same school.
Harvard, Princeton, and Yale went on to adopt class rings. Each school developed a unique design to distinguish its alumni from the others. From there, the tradition spread to virtually every college campus in America.
Now, you can even find class rings at many high schools. No matter where your ring comes from, though, it shows your strong identity and connection to your formative years.
Class Ring Meanings
We all know the meaning of class rings: showing pride and connection to your past while looking ahead to the future.
However, many schools design their own unique rings. These designs are packed with symbolism that expresses the school’s values.
You may also choose to order your own class rings, which means you’ll be able to customize the design. If so, you can incorporate your own symbolism so that the ring means exactly what you want it to mean.
Class Ring Symbols and Meanings
Some of the most common class ring symbols and their meanings are:
- Eagle: pride, dignity, freedom, American values
- Lion: courage, strength, overcoming adversity
- Swords or other weapons: an ongoing fight to live the school’s values
- Torches: the light of wisdom and knowledge
- Laurel garland: honor and distinction
- Coat of arms: your school’s history and values
- Your school’s mascot (or their foot or paw print)
- Your school’s motto (usually in Latin)
Your ring might also include a flag or seal. This represents your school’s loyalty to your country, state, or even another organization.
Of course, your ring will also display the most important feature: your year of graduation.
How To Wear a Class Ring
Class rings are more of a rarity than they have been in the past. This makes them even more distinguished, but more confusing to wear since fewer people are keeping up the tradition.
Thankfully, the traditions of how to wear a class ring have not been completely lost. With a few tips, you can still wear a class ring properly.
What Finger Does a Class Ring Go On?
Typically, your college ring finger is the fourth finger of your right hand. However, there are no hard and fast rules about where you should wear your class ring.
For instance, your right-hand ring finger might already have a ring on it, such as an heirloom. Or, you may want to buck tradition and wear your ring in a more visible place.
In that case, try wearing your class ring on your first (pointer) or middle finger. Since these fingers are larger, your class ring will get noticed more easily on them.
However, if you choose to wear your ring on a larger finger, you may want to order a larger ring size. This will keep the decorations proportional to your finger size. That way, your ring won’t look awkwardly small in proportion to your larger finger.
Keep in mind that the pinkie finger is usually not a good choice to wear your class ring. Many professionals, including engineers, wear a special ring on their pinkie finger to represent their calling. Avoid wearing a class ring on that finger to leave it free — and so that you don’t get mistaken for a member of a profession you don’t belong to!
What Hand Do You Wear Your Class Ring On?
Whichever finger you choose, your best bet is to wear your class ring on your right hand. Why? This prevents it from being mistaken for a wedding band or engagement ring on the left hand.
Alternative Ways to Display Your Class Ring
Looking for even more non-traditional ways to keep your class ring visible?
If you don’t prefer to wear rings all the time, wear your class ring as a pendant. This keeps it visible to everyone around you while still leaving your hands free.
What if you’re not a jewelry person, but you still value the tradition of class rings? You can display your ring in your office or study. This shows your appreciation for your school, even if you can’t wear a ring all the time.
Class Ring Etiquette
Class rings have a prestigious history. It’s no surprise that there are many important customs surrounding them as well.
You don’t want to get caught accidentally breaking important class ring etiquette, so don’t forget to make note of these do’s and don’ts.
When Do You Get a Class Ring in College?
There are two traditional times to get a class ring in college.
The most obvious one is at graduation. This is why class rings are often referred to as “graduation rings.” You will wear this ring after you leave your college.
However, your school might do a “junior ring” ceremony instead. This means that you receive your ring in your junior year as you move toward becoming a senior.
In that case, the ceremony congratulates you on becoming the leading class of the school. If you receive a junior ring, you get to wear it throughout your final year of college, even before you graduate. It shows that your class is the one that all the others look up to as exemplars of the school’s values.
Turning Your Class Ring
If you wear a junior ring, pay attention to class ring etiquette. Take a look at your ring. It has two distinct sides: one with your school’s name or initials, and one without.
Before you graduate, you should wear the side with your school’s name facing toward you. You should be able to read the name when you look at your hand. This symbolizes that you are still present at your school.
After you graduate, though, you will wear your class ring the opposite way. The school’s name will face outward so it’s easier for others to read. This symbolizes that you are now representing your alma mater to the world.
Turning your ring around happens at a special Turning Ceremony at your school. This is a ceremony where, instead of giving your graduation ring, an important person at your school turns your ring around. This means you are ready to graduate.
Even if your school doesn’t do a turning ceremony, it may have other ring-turning traditions. These might include:
- Having your family and friends each turn your ring once
- Only turning your ring in one direction (whether clockwise or counter-clockwise)
- Having your best friend turn your ring first
- Asking an important person, such as a mentor, to be the last person to turn your ring
If you don’t have a ring turning ceremony at your school, you’ll be responsible for turning your ring yourself. Don’t forget to make sure your ring is facing the right way before you go out into the world as a brand-new graduate.
When and Where to Wear a Class Ring
For many people, class rings are part of their lives forever. Class rings look distinguished when worn every day. If you feel a deep connection to your school, the answer to “Where to wear a class ring?” is probably, “Everywhere.”
Others choose to wear their rings only at certain times and places.
Are you the kind of person who doesn’t prefer to wear jewelry all the time? There’s nothing wrong with that. Fortunately, you can still enjoy the benefits of a class ring.
Try putting on your class ring at important times, such as:
- Professional gatherings
- Formal events like weddings and galas
- Events held at your alma mater, such as sports games
- High school and college reunions
- College alumni banquets
There is no wrong time to wear your class ring. Feel free to wear it more or less often. It’s a perfect everyday piece of jewelry, but also makes a great formal accessory for important occasions.
Wearing Your Class Ring After High School
Can you wear your class ring after high school? Absolutely. You can replace it with a college ring if you get one, or wear the two together.
When Should I Order My Class Ring?
The right time to order your class ring depends on a few different factors. First, do you want to order the class ring style that your school has chosen?
If so, you can order your ring through the ring carrier they have chosen. A representative of the company may visit your school a few months before the end of the school year, around March or April. This gives the company time to process the school’s orders before graduation time.
If you go with this option, your ring will be a generic style. You may be able to customize one or two elements and choose the size. However, you won’t be able to design your own ring from scratch.
When you order your ring from an independent ring supplier, such as Classrings.com, you can customize more elements. If you’d prefer to order your own ring, make sure to get your order in at least 4-6 weeks before graduation.
When ordering a class ring, always give yourself more time than you expect you will need. It’s better to have your ring early than to receive it too late for graduation!
Are Class Rings Worth It?
Class rings are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They help capture your college memories so that you can carry them through the years. They’re a tangible reminder of the formative time that you spent at your school.
Many people wonder, “Are class rings worth the investment?” Only you can decide if a class ring is worth it for you.
If you feel that the friendships and learning that you gained at college will stay with you through your whole life, a ring is a perfect way to remind you of them.
Wearing Your Class Ring Proudly and Properly
If you’re nearing the end of your college years, congratulations! Earning your degree is a tremendous achievement. And yet, leaving your beloved college behind can be a bittersweet experience too.
With a class ring, you can hang on to your college memories and never forget where you came from. Now, you know how to wear a class ring the right way, so you’ll never make an etiquette mistake.
When you’re ready to design your custom ring, the sky is the limit. Shop our collection today to find the perfect ring to keep your memories close.