Ring of pride

Clovis senior Kady Urie, 17, who graduates in May, has had her ring for a year. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ staff writer

High school class rings may have lost their luster.

Rising prices and lack of interest has driven some students to bypass what once was a traditional symbol of school pride.

Clovis High School senior Randy England said he couldn’t afford a ring he estimated would have cost more than $200.

“I wasn’t really interested and plus there was a money issue,” said the drum major who instead plans to purchase a letterman’s jacket. “People are going to see that more, plus I have a bunch of patches to show off.”

Jostens, a leader in high school jewelry, markets its rings to CHS. The company’s standard rings start at $69.95, but an average cost is around $230.

CHS senior Kady Urie sports a gold ring with her birthstone and name engraved. She said she purchased the $400 ring her junior year.

“I wanted to have something,” she said, admitting she won’t likely wear it after she graduates. “I am going to keep it and give it to my kids for something they can wear.”

In addition to price, class rings have risen in complexity. If a student likes football, perhaps a Dallas Cowboys logo is in order. Or maybe a guitar engraving or the Italian flag.

“For me it was option ‘a’, option ‘a’ or option ‘a’ ,” said CHS secretary Linda Dayoff, class of 1970.

Dayoff and her husband each had class rings — until they needed money for a flight to Missouri to visit family. The rings, after all, were just sitting in jewelry box.

“We hawked them,” Dayoff said. “We replaced them with wedding rings.”

Clovis Christian High School works through ring-maker Herff Jones. Academic Advisor Kim Peterson said 8 of 11 seniors and 18 of 24 juniors have purchased a ring.

Junior Samantha Barnett said it cost about $250 for the ring she ordered complete with her birthstone, two sports she plays, a National Honor Society engraving, the year 2006 and her name.

“I like them. I like to remember my high school years. I think they are pretty,” Barnett said.

CCS junior Isaac Godwin said he has no plans to buy a ring.

“Probably the price was the main thing and I don’t think I would ever wear it. I have a Fossil watch and I never wear it,” Godwin said. “I’ll remember my class from experience.”

Jostens has seen a slight decline in the purchases of class rings during the past decade, said Rich Stoebe, director of communications for the Minneapolis-based company.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, about half of high school students purchased class rings. Today, only about a third do, he said.

Hoping to zero in on the market, Jostens has been investing in technology to help students personalize and customize their rings and offer a wide range of options on its Internet site.

The company also offers bracelets and necklaces showing off the graduation year.

CHS Assistant Principal Esther Steinle said students sometimes order rings from department or jewelry stores where prices may be cheaper.

The 1979 CHS graduate said she bought her ring downtown. Though she no longer wears it, she has no regrets.

“I think everybody wore them, it was a big deal,” Steinle said. “It is something I go back to and see my rings — mine and my husband’s are in the jewelry box and I think, ‘oh, that’s cool.’”

Knight Ridder Newspapers contributed to this story.