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The Class Rings of Your Dreams
One of the most exciting moments of your high school or college career is the process of picking out your class rings, and deciding which variations on the basic theme that you're going to add to yours. It's a kick selecting the inscription, stone type, appearance, treatment, underside, shape, cut and all the other options that'll make yours different from anyone else's. In most instances, class rings are sufficiently customizable that you can even include the insignia of important organizations you belong to: honor societies, fraternities, sororities, and more. Of course, if you've lettered in a particular sport, you'll want that too.
Whether you opt for that bright, silvery metal called celestrium (an alloy of stainless steel) or pure gold, you've also got plenty of options on where to purchase your ring. Although some schools (especially high schools) select a large company like Balfour or Herff Jones to take the student ring orders, they only do that as a service; you can always get your rings from someone else, if you don't mind being the odd person out.
The ring of authenticity
The tradition of class rings originated at West Point in 1835, and eventually swept the rest of the United States (they're not nearly as popular in other countries). Today, graduating seniors quite correctly view them as a rite of passage. Typically, a man's ring is bulkier and more expensive than a woman's ring, and most class rings are either oval or rectangular in shape. Some bear stones (generally a birthstone), but some do not; this may either be a matter of choice on the part of the student, or school policy. It's proper to wear your class ring on the ring finger of your right hand, leaving the left-hand ring finger free for your wedding band. The insignia should be upright to the wearer when your arm is extended. Class rings are often exchanged by high school, in a fashion similar to a promise ring; the boy wears the girl's on his pinky, if possible, while the girl wears his on a chain around her neck.
Famous class rings include the Brass Rat of M.I.T. and the rings of Regent and Washington & Lee Universities, which have no stones and bear a reversed image of the school crest, a tradition that may derive from the ancient usage of signet rings as seals. The big, gold Aggie Rings of Texas A&M University are also quite distinctive. As far as famous individual class rings go, the most famous is probably the Purdue University class ring Neil Armstrong wore on the Moon in 1969. It's now on display at the Purdue campus.
Options for class rings
As mentioned above, a jewelry company representative will most likely come to your school and take your orders in person; but don't let the rep talk you into buying your ring through them if you don't see what you want. You can always walk into a jewelry store and purchase what you want there, and you'll generally find you'll have a wider variety of choices, too. You can even buy class rings at Wal-Mart. Alternately, the Internet offers a great selection of companies that will happily customize a class ring for you, including many of the companies (like Balfour, ArtCarved, and Herff Jones) that make most of their living selling directly to schools.