Since 1911, the Virginia Tech class ring has featured a unique design for each class. The rings are a representation of the deep traditions at Virginia Tech and a reflection of the class's time on campus.
To commemorate the celebration of 100 years of the Virginia Tech ring tradition, the Class of 2011 leadership team envisioned, as their class gift, a large cast bronze centennial ring displayed in Squires Student Center. This class gift would be funded from ring sales proceeds.
Research and planning began in early 2009. The university ring collection did not contain a 1911 ring at the time, but fortuitously, Paul Tanner Jr. '45 informed the Alumni Association that he had the 1911 class ring of his father, Paul Tanner Sr. Paul Jr., along with his brothers Terry '47, Maurice '57, and son Mark donated the ring to the Alumni Association. The 1911 ring provided critical information about the form and design.
The Centennial Big Ring features a side recreated from the 1911 ring and the university side of the 2011 class ring. The bezel includes the shield of the seal of Virginia Tech and the linking chain of class numerals - 1911 on one side and 2011 on the other. The CAD models were created by Balfour, the current Virginia Tech ring company. The prototype modeling and casting using the lost wax technique were done by Carolina Bronze Sculpture. The final finishing work was completed by Professor Emeritus Steve Bickley who also oversaw technical aspects of the project. Artisan carpenter William Johnson built the Big Ring's custom oak base, which features a walnut inlay of the Class of 2011 logo and the Virginia Tech Pylon Shield.
The Class of 2011 ring collection namesakes, President Charles Steger and Mrs. Janet Steger, joined the Class of 2011 leadership team to unveil and dedicate the Big Ring on September 23, 2010, at Squires Student Center Atrium.
How the Big Ring was made:
- 1911 ring of Paul Tanner Sr. was donated by his sons, Paul '45, Terry '47, and Maurice '57 in 2009.
- Balfour artists recreated a 1911 ring side from images of the 1911 ring and early 1920s rings. The recreation was formatted for a 40 dwt. scale ring - the largest size offered.
- The artwork of the 1911 ring and the university side of the Class of 2011 ring was plotted into a CAD file to create the Big Ring models.
- From the CAD files, the artisans at Carolina Bronze Sculpture used a rapid prototype system to create a cast model of the ring. The models of the segments were then hand detailed and finished.
- The models were used to make silicon rubber molds, which were used to create positive waxes of the ring segments.
- Investment created a shell around the wax molds. The wax was burned out, which created a casting mold.
- Bronze metal mixture was heated in a crucible in the kiln. The crucible was removed by two artisans and the liquid metal was poured into the casting mold. The casting was allowed to cool.
- The investment material was broken off the cast bezel piece and the pieces were further cleaned. The ring body pieces were welded together, but the bezel was left off until the final finishing.
- Professor Emeritus Steve Bickley completed the final polishing phase and the bezel was added.