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The Origins of the Anniversary Gift

AnniversaryMost historians agree the practice of celebrating milestone anniversaries with precious gifts originated during the Middle Ages in Central Europe. It is said medieval Germans initiated the custom of presenting a wife with a wreath or a garland of silver upon her 25th year of marriage. The belief was that the purity of silver was symbolic of the harmony required to sustain a marriage over such a long period.

Similarly, gold was presented upon the fiftieth anniversary. However, given the average life span back then was some 45 years, one suspects there were many more silver anniversaries than golden. (But we digress.) In those days, only the 25th and 50th wedding anniversaries were celebrated. Eventually, the terms golden and silver anniversaries arose from this tradition.

While there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding how the other specific symbolic anniversary gifts came to be, it is believed their origin lies in the Victorian era, as the people of the time are noted for their penchant for cataloging and classifying. It is speculated they subscribed to ancient customs to develop them, but no solid evidence exists to indicate how exactly they were determined—other than wood and diamond. Diamond is attributed to Queen Victoria’s celebration of her Diamond Jubilee upon the occasion of her 60th year on the throne. Wood arose from a 17th-century Welsh tradition of presenting a woman with a carved wooden spoon to demonstrate a suitor’s craftsmanship.

In 1922, Emily Post, the well-renowned arbiter of the social graces, enumerated a list of eight generally accepted gifting anniversaries in her Blue Book of Social Usage. These were the first, fifth, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 50th and 75th. In 1937, the American National Retail Jeweler Association issued a gift list for each individual year up until the 20th, and then every fifth succeeding year, culminating in the 75th.

No matter what year the anniversary that you are celebrating, a gift of jewelry is always appreciated as a sign of love.