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Make Your Mark: NSCAD’s new alumni ring is fully customizable to ensure each student graduates with a unique piece

Using ethically sourced materials, the new NSCAD alumni ring is a testament to the academic achievement of the students and the ethical values of the university.

NSCAD’s new alumni rings comes in gold, silver and stainless steel. Credit: NSCAD Art Supply Store.

As plans for convocation are underway at NSCAD University, graduating students are excited to make that unmistakable stride of pride across the stage. In addition to having a diploma in hand, there is another significant emblem of academic achievement —an alumni ring.

Designed by NSCAD student, Erin Fleming, the alumni ring is created with students in mind. As a Jewelry Design and Metalsmithing student, Fleming has used all the knowledge she learned at NSCAD to make a piece of customizable art that graduating students can look at with fond memories.

“I wanted something that felt personal for everyone,” she says. “Art school is such an individual experience, and the challenge was making it relatable for everybody in all different departments. So, I came up with the idea of everyone having their own personal mark that would be put on the ring.”

With Fleming’s design, students will be able to fully customize their alumni ring and digitally create their own patterns; this will then be etched onto the rings by the jeweler and sent to students.

The premise of Fleming’s ‘make your mark’ design resonated with the judges during the NSCAD Alumni Ring Redesign competition in 2023. She ultimately won the competition and was awarded a $1,000 prize, plus consideration for a design purchase and production agreement.

“I never really paid that much attention to the alumni ring before that point. So, I found it very difficult in the beginning,” she says. “I made several samples to make sure it was even possible to map a pencil mark onto a ring, and it was all digital, which was pretty far out of my realm of experience, but I had a lot of help along the way.”


Some of that help came from Greg Sims, assistant professor in the division of craft, jewelry and metalsmithing, who saw a chance to update NSCAD’s alumni ring design. With the previous ring being phased out of production, Sims put together a design competition for current students.

“I recognized that there was an opportunity to make it more current and make it more reflective of the students that are going through the institution now,” he says.  

At the same time, Sims was spearheading NSCAD’s first ever Fairmined Agreement, which allows jewelry design and metalsmithing students access to ethically sourced gold and silver in their program. The same ethically sourced materials will also be used to make the alumni rings.

“When the question came up as to whether or not this ring should be using ethically sourced or responsibly sourced materials, we all said yes,” says Sims. “Because otherwise, it’s a glaring issue that doesn’t really reflect the values of our students or the institution.”

With every ring purchase, students will receive a Fairmined Certificate that will allow them to trace the source of their rings; they will be able to see the supply chain, the record of sales, all the way to the time and location of the mines that the minerals were sourced. Each actor in the supply chain is audited every three years to ensure that the standards of Fairmined are being adhered to.


NSCAD commissioned Toronto-based jeweller, Malleable— who specializes in ethically traded gems and Fairmined metals—to create the rings. Owner John Esposito is excited that institutions like NSCAD are seeing the value in Fairmined and sustainable jewelry.

“The biggest reason why I work with Fairmined is I wouldn’t want to put someone through the abhorrent abuses that come with the mining industry; I don’t want my jewelry to be part of that legacy,” he says. “There are millions of people that depend on mining to support their families worldwide, and while we can’t completely eradicate mining, we can do it differently. We can make sure people can still support their families and also have an ethical supply chain, which we can source from.”

When Esposito started Malleable in 2017, it was one of the first and only Fairtrade Licensed Goldsmiths in Canada. He wants other jewellers to normalize the use of Fairmined metals, not just to fit the trend of sustainability, but to change the system of jewelry making for the better.

“I feel that a lot of jewelry designers see Fairmined and look at it like a competition in a negative way,” he says. “But really, this is a ‘co-petition’; we can all be in the same industry and working together to create a community of people and create change through business for good.”


Fleming will also be graduating this year and is excited to see her work on the hands of her peers.

“I’ve had alumni reach out to me and say, ‘I already bought the old ring, but I really want this ring.’ And that’s the best feedback I could have,” she says. “During the process of going through art school, I never thought I would get such enthusiastic anticipation for something that I created.”

As a former jewelry student himself, Esposito believes the alumni rings are just as important as an engagement ring or wedding ring, because they symbolize an integral part of someone’s life.

“I know how hard it is to go into jewelry arts as an academic venture, and even more so how difficult it is to be a jewelry designer out in the big wide world,” he says. “So, the ring can be grounding and a physical reminder of how far you’ve come.”

Sims has spent the winter developing and testing the software students will use to design their rings. He wants to ensure everyone has a positive experience creating their final piece of art as a NSCAD student.

“We want students to feel confident in their mark making,” he says. “We recognize that there are going to be some people that are maybe hesitant to commit to a design and we are here to make sure that they come out on the other side with a ring that truly represents them.”

The NSCAD Art Supply Store will begin selling the new alumni rings to graduates at the ceremony on May 14, offering one-on-one design appointments to students and alumni both in-person and online.

“We want to ensure that everyone can bring their ideas to life and honor the design as their own, so it’s really important to us that the NSCAD community feel supported throughout the process from idea to the first time they slide on their new ring,” says the NSCAD Art Store in a statement.

Jewelry Design and Metalsmithing student, Erin Fleming, designed the new alumni rings.
Greg Sims is the assistant professor in the division of craft, jewelry and metalsmithing.
Toronto-based jeweller, John Esposito, is the owner of Malleable.
The NSCAD Art Supply Store will begin selling the new alumni rings to graduates at the ceremony on May 14.