The first class ring was developed in 1835 for West Point U.S. Academy. In the early 1900's class rings came into fashion. The early class rings were crude and were only a shank with a symbol (usually of the class pin which preceded the class ring by a few years) attached to the bezel of the ring. They quickly became popular and soon stones were added and more intricate dies allowing for greater details were developed
The basis of the class ring (and pin) goes back to the Egyptians, who felt their scarab rings promised them eternal life, they wore their seal & signet rings till death, and were buried with them (placed over their hearts). Roman soldiers felt their rings would bring them victory. (In fact, some images on cameos were considered good luck amulets). A gold ring represented nobility only. So the commoner couldn't wear a gold ring until 500 BC when a law said that all Romans could wear gold if they wanted. Wealthy Europeans would hire jewelers to design their own special ring. Queen Victoria had a serpent of emeralds on her wedding ring (and 6 doz. were duplicated and given to each of the ladies of the court.) So a class ring (in gold) represented wealth, success, and belonging to a special group.
Today, class rings remain a popular tradition for high school and colleges. Class rings are seen as a combination of showing school pride while being an outward symbol of the diploma (but much easier to display). With many people, they feel their class ring is a symbol of their entrance into the world of adulthood, a good luck charm or a show of worthiness of belonging to some group. Although tradition holds that a class ring is worn on the right hand on the third finger (because the Knights felt it gave them double strength there and good luck), a class ring can be worn on any finger and sometimes on a chain around a neck.
Sometimes, it does not represent success. It is said that one of architectures designed by the first graduates from one of famous universities in Canada collapsed unfortunately, finally, the president in this school bought all of its metal materials to make school rings for the next graduates to memorize.