Clemson issued the first class rings in 1896. The fine gold and enamel rings had nothing to identify them with Clemson until 1901, when the letter “C” accompanied by the state tree, the palmetto, began appearing in the center. In 1927, the name Clemson College was added to the area surrounding the center stone.
An eagle facing right, representing a country at peace, was added to the side of the ring in 1906. The U.S. shield, originally George Washington’s coat of arms, was placed below the eagle in 1915. Two sabers, then standard issue for Clemson graduates, are positioned on either side of the seal. The Tiger head below the U.S. seal embodies loyalty and fierce protection.
On the opposite side of the ring, the South Carolina coat of arms represents Clemson as a land-grant institution. Inside the shield on the right is a single figure symbolizing hope. Surrounding it is the state’s motto in Latin meaning, “While I breathe, I hope.” Inside the shield on the left, is a palmetto tree with the inscription: “Prepared in body and mind.” Beside the state shield are M1 rifles signifying the military service of Clemson men and a star that represents their sacrifice.
The secret to the Clemson ring lies below the palmetto tree. Here a little-known but fitting motto is inscribed: “Who shall separate us now?”
Clemson graduates and the Alumni Association have the answer: “No one.”
— Jerry Reel