This past December, a 1968 Hills graduate was reunited with her Morris Hills class ring, which had been missing for fifty years. The item had been discovered at Dover’s Hurd Park by a Kinnelon resident and metal detector enthusiast.
A scroll through the recent news will find hundreds of stories just like this one: people parted from their class rings for decades, only to have them returned by some sort of miracle. For many of the lucky individuals, the reunion with their rings was an emotional experience, a nostalgic event and example of life’s crazy coincidences.
In most of these cases, however, the rings are from decades ago. While the class ring used to be a classic high school symbol, akin to the varsity jacket, it is no longer as popular. So, what happened?
It could simply be that they no longer fit today’s styles, both in fashion and symbolism. Class jewelry reached peak popularity at a time when the high school experience was very different. In the fifties and sixties, when there were fewer high schools and high school programs, every student knew which school they would be attending when they reached the ninth grade. In this way, Hills was a staple of the community because it served as the final stopping point for all students before they went off into the world. Many of the students who went to Morris Hills had known each other for most of their lives, so the class ring was a symbol of community and childhood as well as a symbol of high school. Since this was also true of towns around the country, the class ring was a nationwide phenomenon.
Today, the high school system is different, and the declining sales of class rings reflect that. Morris Hills is made up from students from around the county. For them, Hills wasn’t an inevitable part of growing up- it was something they chose. While students still become attached to the school, it is not necessarily etched into their past as it was for the alumni of the fifties and sixties, and they may not feel the need to memorialize their high school experience with a ring.
Another possible explanation for the class ring’s decline in prevalence could be the rising popularity of other types of class jewelry. Through Jostens, Morris Hills students can buy a variety of high school memorabilia. The company’s newest product is the class band, a variation on the class ring that, according to Jostens representative Dan Ciprut, “has brought a lot of students back into the tradition that [they] normally would not have participated [in].”
The company’s other products, such as class tags, bracelets, and necklaces, are also popular. “Every year is different- the biggest factors are the school, the class that is sold too, and the advisors for the class,” says Mr. Ciprut.
Like Morris Hills itself, student opinions and trends change. The different makeup, background, and experiences of today’s student body call for a different way to remember high school. It could be a varsity jacket, a class band, or perhaps something completely new.