Cherish high school with class rings
The first class rings were made for cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1835. In 1897, the first high school class rings were made. Five female friends in Minnesota wanted to have a ring made so they would never forget the friendships and good times they shared in high school.
"The tradition continues today," said Wendell Samson, a Jostens representative for 67 schools in West Virginia.
Jostens started the tradition of class rings, making the first one in 1897. Other companies have jumped into the industry in the last 30 to 40 years.
"A class ring is many things," Samson said. "It's your story. [It] symbolizes your commitment to your education [and will] always tie you to a time, a place and group of people; the memories that ring will bring back are priceless.
"Every time I wear my 1989 Winfield High School class ring, I smile," he added. "A flood of great memories come back to me immediately. That's what a class ring is."
In the schools Samson represents, 45 percent of students purchase class rings. The national average is about 27 percent. He said it's about 50/50 when it comes to which gender is more likely to buy a class ring, and when it comes to grade, he mostly sees sophomores buying them.
"The reason behind that is to give the student plenty of time to enjoy the pride of wearing a class ring," he said.
Class rings unite classmates because they show that you went to school together, but they are also completely unique. With Jostens, for instance, there are around 90 different styles of rings to choose from. Couple that with almost 1,000 different side panels and hundreds of stone options, and you could create literally thousands of different rings.
"Every single class ring made in the world is different. No two are alike," said Samson.
Jostens has a lot of practice making rings. Not only has it been making class rings for 115 years, but it also makes rings for sports championships like the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA Championship, the Stanley Cup, college bowl championships and NASCAR. It even makes high school championship rings.
"In the last three years, my office here in West Virginia has made the rings for over 90 percent of state championships in the bottom half of West Virginia," Samson said.
A class ring is a must-have item from your high school experience, and that's not just salesman talk from Samson. He meets hundreds of people each year who tell him stories about how important their class ring is to them.
"As a teenager, sometimes things that you think aren't that big of a deal today become a huge deal when you're older," he said. "Your class ring is one of those things."
Students may be interested in class rings, but nowadays they also have a lot of things to spend money on. The value of a class ring might not be obvious to them.
"Many times, Mom or Dad went to the same school, and the student wants to get that ring just like their parent," Samson said, "but today students are pulled between a ring, iPod, cell phone, PS3 games, the newest shoes, etcetera."
But when you think of those things, what will last, what will become outdated and what will forever hold memories of your youth?
"Your class ring will always take you back to the best times of your life. That's the value of a class ring," said Samson.