Graduation Gift Traditions

Graduation Gift Traditions

While the idea of fellowship rings, denoting belonging to a particular group, traces back to Roman soldiers, their use in schools is a distinctly American tradition.

Extending their military heritage, class rings were first used just before the dawn of the Victorian Era in 1835 to commemorate the graduating class at West Point Military Academy.

West Point Military Academy Commencement, 1917-1918.

Originally cherished as keepsakes of one's time at West Point, these rings garnered attention and soon influenced Ivy League and prestigious universities to adopt similar traditions. These rings often featured details such as school seals, graduation years, mascots, mottos, and more. Graduates wore them as a badges of honor, a link to their alma mater long after graduation day.

As decades passed, the tradition of class rings spread throughout the collegiate community and made their way into fashion for high school students. By the mid-20th century, graduates, particularly those in the southern United States, eagerly embraced this time-honored tradition, cementing the class ring's status as a ubiquitous symbol of scholastic accomplishment.

A class ring for students of the Georgia School of Technology, designed by Herff Jones, 1926.

However, as times change, so do preferences. Though traditional class rings are still common, their bulky design and overwrought school spirit have led to a decline in popularity. Graduates increasingly seek alternatives in their quest for individuality as they turn to new generations of graduation gifts.

Today’s graduates often prefer simplistic designs that offer a subtle homage to their alma mater or opt for jewelry that can timelessly carry them into their next season of life, such as diamond earrings, birthstone pendants, and more.

However you choose to celebrate this momentous occasion (or any other), our team of GIA graduates can help you find or custom-create the right piece. Take a look at our graduation gifting guide or contact us to talk with our team of jewelry experts to find the piece that’s just right.