Class rings have been in existence since 1835 when each member of the graduating class of the West Point Military Academy was given a special ring displaying the year of graduation. Along with the date, class rings have evolved to feature several elements, including mascots, school colors and even the student's favorite subject. Antique class rings are sought after by collectors and can be identified through several steps.
Determine your definition of antique. Class rings have been in existence since 1835, so if age is a factor for you, pick a year you think is old enough to constitute collecting. If you enjoy collecting rare antique class rings, your definition may include the number of rings made in a particular year. To learn about the number of rings made in a particular year consider contacting the institution they represent. Ask about the specific year that corresponds to the date on your ring and how many rings were distributed. You might also want to consider visiting a collector or a dealer of class rings and ask them about the production year specific to your ring.
Identify the date on the ring. Research the collections of other antique class ring collectors to determine if the ring is old enough to be considered an antique.
Research the institution the ring was made to represent. If the institution is no longer in existence, then the ring may be considered an antique.
Look for any mascot or markings on the ring. Research the history of the institution the ring was made to represent and the history of its mascots. If the mascot depicted on the ring is no longer in service at the institution, then the ring may be considered an antique. Any special markings on the ring, like initials or dedications, might correspond to to an important figure in that specific institution's history. This may increase the historical value of the ring and therefore be considered an antique.
Test the material the ring is made from. Bring the ring to a jeweler and ask them to test the material it is made from. The jeweler will have to take a small sample from the ring, usually scratching it. If a small percentage of the class rings from that particular year were made with that material then it may be an antique. Examples of historically rare class ring materials include platinum, gold and silver.
Consult an antique dealer about the markings and dates associated with antique class rings.