My brother-in-law recently came to me seeking some advice on his looming 6th anniversary. It got me thinking, where did this practice originate and who is responsible for selecting the appropriate gift. When looking at the modern list it seems pretty clear that the jewelry industry had a guiding hand, but what about the traditional list – who decided that steel was the appropriate representation of your love and commitment after you had been married for 11 years. Steel, really?
Well, curiosity got the better of me. Let me share with you what my research turned up. It seems that gift giving for anniversaries dates back to the middle ages, specifically Germany. After being married for 25 years a silver wreath or garland was presented to the wife by friends to celebrate and represent the strength of marriage. At the 50th anniversary another wreath or garland was present, this time one made of gold. Hence the development of the term Silver and Golden Anniversary.
Knowing the extreme cost of such an item, not only for the materials used, but also the labor involved in creating such delicate decorations, it would seem to me that this was only a tradition of the wealthier classes. Not to mention the diet and living conditions in the middle ages for the peasant class. The average life span of that time being somewhere around the mid-40’s, it seems highly unlikely that many people lived long enough to celebrate their 25th or 50th Anniversaries. None of my research however could confirm or renounce my theory.
As time passed, additional traditions developed in the way of gift giving to celebrate marital bliss. These “tokens” were given with the idea in mind that the gift represented the strength or development of the relationship. For example, the interlocking fibers of paper, the gift for the 1st anniversary, were meant to represent strength. Leather, given on the 3rd anniversary, was a representation of durability. The fruit or flowers given on your 4th anniversary represented the blossoming of a fruitful relationship. My favorite though, hands-down, has to be the tin or aluminum given on the 10th anniversary. It is the physical representation of a couple’s flexibility. All I have to say is, if I get a box of Reynolds Wrap from my husband…honestly, I would probably laugh. But most women don’t have the same quirky sense of humor as I do, so fella’s I don’t recommend it.
In 1937 the world of anniversary gift giving got serious, the National Retail Jewelry Association got involved. Prior to 1937 the only anniversary dates to be acknowledged with specific gift suggestions were the first, fifth, 10th, 15th, 20th,25th 50th and 75th. A much shorter list and heaps easier on the wallet. The National Retail Jeweler Association published a more comprehensive list which assigned a gift to every year up to the 20th Anniversary and then every 5 years after that up to the 75th Anniversary. I wouldn’t be “Diamond Jen” if I didn’t point out that diamonds are the recommended gift of choice for four different anniversaries, the 10th, 30th, 60th and 75th.
Not to be outdone, or forgotten, the flower industry developed their own list of favored stems to coordinate with your anniversary. Perhaps the best way to knock your partner’s socks off is not to give them a desk set or copper on your 7th anniversary but rather a beautiful bouquet of Jack-in-the Pulpits.
If the traditional anniversary gift list, the modern anniversary gift list or the floral anniversary list are not enough options for you, you are in the luck, the jewelry industry struck again. There is one final anniversary gift list I uncovered in my research, the little known gemstone anniversary gift list. As you may have guessed, this list is comprised entirely of gemstones that can be given on the corresponding anniversary. In this case I would recommend having them mounted in some form of jewelry.
In a society that at times can be overwhelmed by consumerism the key thing to remember when it comes to anniversaries is to give a gift with love. In the end the thought behind the gift and romance around the presentation is just as important, if not more so, then what is in the box. But just in case you are not feeling creative or inspired you definitely have resources at your finger tips. For those of you lucky enough to have found your true love and are happily celebrating your anniversaries year after year – Congratulations!