An MIT Alumni Association Publication

The “Brass Rat”—as MIT’s class ring is affectionately known—is so iconic that it helps unacquainted alums recognize each other across a crowded room. Yet its details are so customized by each year’s student committee that the ring’s manufacturers say the job is upping their game. Watch the new MIT News video above to see what goes into the design and unveiling of this distinctive symbol of the Institute, the history of which goes back to 1929.

Want more? Get a closer look at the 20192020, and 2021 Brass Rats. Learn more about the MIT graduate ring, known as the “Grad Rat,” which is redesigned in a similar process every five years. And get the details on how to care for and/or replace your ring.

Are you on campus for Tech Reunions this weekend? Show your Brass Rat on social media with the hashtag #TechReunions and follow the conversation on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


Donald Davidoff

Sat, 06/22/2019 9:02am

Seriously, at graduation we "flip" the skyline? First, I don't know when the skylines appeared on the ring...they aren't on rings from the 80s and before. Second, every MIT student knows that, while an undergrad, you wear the ring so the beaver sh*ts on you and at graduation you flip it so that the beaver sh*ts on the rest of the world :)

James Rome

Sat, 06/22/2019 9:38am

I am in the class of '64, and our rings were NOT custom designed. They were identical to all the previous years. Made by L. G. Balfour.

Craig Reynolds

Sat, 06/22/2019 10:07pm

Nicholas Salinas describes the brass rat as “…the class ring MIT gives to its students at the end of the sophomore year…”

Is it literally a gift these days? I was Class of 1975 and we paid for our own rings. I remember it seemed like a lot of money at the time. Also back then getting our rings was much less of a celebration. There was a table set up in the lobby of Building 10. I think you just walked up between classes and showed your ID.

Emil Friedman

Sun, 06/23/2019 3:37pm

When I graduated we were told a completely different for changing the way our rings faced. There weren't even skylines to refer to.

I liked it better when the brass rat only changed a little from year to year. How do we recognize the new brass rat if it's totally different from the one we where?

David Brown

Sun, 06/23/2019 9:15pm

I second all of the comments above. Clearly the production and distribution of the brass rat has been made into a much bigger deal than when I was a student in the 70's. The rings didn't change all that much from year to year. One enduring tradition was the class year embedded in the sticks under the beaver - hope that's still being done. At some point I lost my original Class of '69 rat, so when I was a graduate student I ordered a new one, and they were able to backdate the class year on one side to 69 instead of 76. So I proudly wear a rat that has both my original class year (1969) and, in the twigs, 76, the year I finally graduated from the institute for the last time!

William Calcagno

Thu, 06/27/2019 5:23pm

The skyline was added by the class of 1989. I'm class of '88, and our rings don't have the skyline. The next year's class added it. I thought it was pretty clever at the time, but thirty years later, the skylines probably would have worn off by now.

The story about why graduates flip the ring is hogwash -- the first comment (about authenticity) has it right. Hopefully the new graduates know the true story and haven't been deceived in the name of political correctness.

Also, I just picked up my ring in the lobby of Building 10. There was no big distribution party, and certainly no design reveal presentation -- they just had pictures of the rings on the order form, along with any options (such as a diamond in the face as a full moon instead of the crescent moon that was cast there).

The only thing that's new to me (from the video) is how elaborate and overblown they've made the whole ring process.

Brian Hunter

Wed, 07/10/2019 8:07am

There were some things in the video that weren't fully explained, and lacked some context, and the comments here reflect that. There are many historical aspects of the ring not actually covered or were factually inaccurate as stated. Hopefully I can help.

The statement about the rings being "given" was a poor choice of words; the rings are still purchased by students. In fact, one difference is that some students purchase two rings, one cast from a material that I believe is a steel alloy, the other from gold, the way ours were. You'll commonly see students on campus wearing these "grey" rings, and some may ask you, as they did of me, "You wear your GOOD ring?" because they aren't aware that we only bought one.

At different times there were exclusive ring contracts with particular companies, and then during the 1980s it was an annual competition between Balfour, Jostens, and Herff Jones, with the added wrinkle that these rings began to be custom designed. Regardless of the year, if you ever lose your ring, you can contact the company that manufactured your year and they can make you a new one because they have saved the moulds used. That is part of their contract.

Yes, the premiere, the ring delivery event, and nearly every aspect of the process has become MUCH more elaborate than it was when we were students, as have many aspects of MIT student life. It's all a bit overwhelming at times to witness since we did just go up to the table in Lobby 10 to pick ours up with no ceremony, and no party at Fenway Park or during a dinner cruise.

Lastly, the skylines were added by the Class of '90, not '89. The Class of '91 committee chose not to include them, but the '92 committee did include them and they have been a feature ever since, while the designs have become very elaborate, especially once classes began to include things like a "hacker's map" inside the ring, whereas we simply had our name engraved there. I will spare you the details of how the skylines came to be, since that is its own tale, but as one of the 13 members (yes, committees don't ALWAYS have 12 members) of the 1990 Ring Committee, I was there as a participant. Please know that NOBODY "flips the skylines," Don. We may have oriented the skylines so they would align that way when the ring was flipped at graduation, but the real tradition will never change, even if that wasn't explained in the video, perhaps for the sake of consumption by a wider audience than just alums.

Cheryl Dawson

Sun, 12/22/2019 3:39pm

The class of '67 had our rings made by another jeweler named Dieges and Clust (if I remember correctly). My original Brass Rat was stolen many years later and I was unable to replace it with an exact duplicate. I did sort of replace it but I think my replacement was made by Balfour. Although I've now worn that one for about 20 years, it still doesn't look like MY Brass Rat.

And yes, my beaver continues to be oriented correctly...forget the skyline! Have MIT students really become that polite? When I was back for my classes 50th reunion, I checked with a couple of that year's graduates and they did not show me the skyline. They made sure I saw the beaver oriented correctly. LOL

Brian Hunter

Sat, 05/23/2020 8:46am

I'm sorry you ended up with the wrong manufacturer for your replacement ring. Dieges and Clust was purchased by Herff Jones (I think that was in 1979), and when I toured their plant back in the day they claimed that they had the moulds that D&C had used for the many decades they had been the exclusive manufacturer. If it's worth it to you, there is the chance that they could find and produce an actual replacement.

I will reiterate that when we added the skylines, we did so to match the beaver orientation and not the other way around as was erroneously stated for a wider audience.

Kathryn Balles

Sun, 12/22/2019 10:04am

Well, I like the new skylines on the rings, but now we “flip the skylines?” Not the way I remember it - more of a beaver defecating story as I recall.