Have you ever wondered about the origin of anniversary gifts, and what they actually mean? Each wedding anniversary year has a traditional gift, as well as flowers, colors, and gemstones that correlate with the respective celebration.
As it turns out, these long-standing conventions date all the way back to the medieval period and were chosen as agents of good fortune and prosperity for marriage. However, the tradition of anniversary gifts didn't really gain popularity until the Victorian era. Contemporary opinions diverge from traditional lore in that they say each gift should be chosen to gradually increase in value as you invest more time into the relationship—serving as a recognition of a successful marriage. This was the basis of the foundation for modern anniversary gift interpretations, which were published by the American National Retail Jewelers Association in 1937.
So whether it's your first year of marriage or you're shopping for the perfect sentimental gold gift for your parents' 50th, check out our comprehensive guide to anniversary gifts by year, below.
1st Anniversary: Paper
On your first-ever anniversary, paper represents the traditional gift. The threads within paper symbolize the strength and connectivity of your blossoming relationship. Paper is also a blank slate, a reference to the beginnings of a new life together. And since paper symbolizes a clean canvas to write out your own story, have your very first wedding anniversary gift speak to that with things like a cookbook for newlyweds, a custom illustration of the two of you, or tickets to special events that will add to that story.
For a modern spin, couples gift each other clocks to represent eternal love. Gold represents the standard first-anniversary color, orange blossoms or pansies are the customary flowers, and gold is the one-year gemstone, though obviously not technically a stone.
2nd Anniversary: Cotton
The second wedding anniversary is all about recognizing the maturation of your relationship together. Traditionally, cotton is the gift of choice as each fiber represents two people that have become interwoven with one another. China is the modern counterpart. Its beauty and sophistication are timeless and enduring, much like your union, but it is also fragile and may contain weaknesses, just like your still-young relationship.
The second year of marriage is represented by the color red and the devoted lily of the valley. Consider gifts that will enhance your precious moments together like bedding for your cherished weekend lay-ins or ceramic mugs for your mornings together. If jewelry is more your style (we feel you!), you'll want to look for garnet pieces. With its firey and passionate coloring, garnet has always represented love, friendship, and the heart that sustains a life force.
3rd Anniversary: Leather
By this point in your marriage, the two of you have definitely seen some things and you're all the stronger for it. That's precisely why leather is the traditional third-anniversary gift of choice. Rich and rugged, leather is both durable and protective, like a fortified hide that no longer succumbs to weakness.
The modern choice of crystal or glass highlights another facet of your relationship. It is fragile and requires great care, just like any love, but the best of them can outlive the ages. The third year is characterized by the color white—as pure as your love. In terms of the natural world, you're looking at vibrant Fuschia blossoms and elegant pearls, which have a warm luster that is not unlike the light that refracts from faceted crystal.
4th Anniversary: Fruit or Flowers
After four years your relationship is blossoming and ripening into maturity, just like the traditional gift of fruit or flowers. For something sweet and sentimental, have your florist recreate the same bouquet from your wedding day or carve out some time to plant a garden together. A more modern approach to the four-year wedding anniversary gift calls for appliances to simplify life at home and free up some time to spend loving one another.
This milestone is celebrated with tones of blue and green that mimic this year's gemstone: blue topaz. Blue topaz has forever been considered the feeling stone, associated with deep emotions, communication, and compassion—all the ingredients needed for a successful marriage. For floral finds, look to frilly geraniums for a vibrant pop of excitement.
5th Anniversary: Wood
Cheers to making it halfway to a decade! For this marriage milestone, couples traditionally gift each other wood. This reflects the strength and durability of your marriage, as well as the strong eternal roots you're putting down. Silverware represents the modern gift for fifth anniversaries. Despite sounding incredibly outdated, there's a sweet symbol behind it—all your shared meals and the bond you've formed over the past five years.
Sapphire represents the traditional fifth-anniversary gemstone, blue and pink are the customary colors, and daisies are the five-year flower. Sapphires are said to symbolize faithfulness and sincerity, a beautiful representation of the virtues of your relationship.
6th Anniversary: Candy or Iron
Six years together and enjoying every minute of it. This marriage anniversary is all about the sweet stuff. And we mean that literally, the traditional gift for this year is candy or iron. The youthful appeal of candy is a hint at the sweetness of your days of dating and a reminder to continue carrying that into your marriage. We love the idea of having your wedding cake baker recreate a mini version of your big-day dessert for just the two of you to celebrate these last six years. While iron, with all of its strength, attests to the rock-solid marriage that you have built.
That same notion is carried over into the modern gift of wood, which is forever growing and maturing. In terms of tones, stick to colors of white, turquoise, or purple. Stunningly elegant cala lilies and majestic amethyst round out this year's symbolic gifts. This regal gemstone is said to have protective properties, shielding its wearer from any negativity or impurity—much as your relationship cloaks you from harm.
7th Anniversary: Wool or Copper
By the seventh year, you've no doubt learned to take things in stride. The traditional gift calls for either copper or wool. These two elements may seem diametrically opposed, but they have one thing in common: warmth—wool is an insulator of warmth and copper is a conductor of heat. Just like that which radiates through your relationship.
Modern options are all about the more pragmatic approach of a desk set. A desk set might seem like choosing functionality over romance, but we can't think of anything more romantic than a partner who supports your ambitions. The seventh wedding anniversary is characterized by an organic yellow color scheme, bouquets of striped Jack-in-the-pulpits, and dignified onyx stones.
8th Anniversary: Bronze
Eight years and going strong. The traditional eighth-anniversary gift is bronze (a biblical symbol of strength), while more modern alternatives seem to err on the softer side with linens and lace. Bronze is an alloy and represents the blending of two once-independent lives, while both linens and lace are widely regarded as accouterments of refinement—just as your love for each other has been carefully refined over the years. Color-wise, stick with the bronze theme or brighten things up with a posy of clematis. The gemstone of choice for this milestone is tourmaline.
9th Anniversary: Pottery
One year shy of that 10-year mark. The traditional ninth-anniversary gift is pottery. Made of clay, pottery is carefully molded into something of great beauty and lasting presence. A modern alternative would be leather. A strong, durable, and enduring material that can also be quite flexible, and only gets better with age. The ninth-anniversary color is, aptly, terracotta and you can fill all those clay vases with luscious poppies to keep with tradition. Poppies symbolize the imaginative realm and dreams, two things that are important in keeping a spark alive. For gems look no further than lapis lazuli.
10th Anniversary: Tin or Aluminum
Look out, world—you've tackled ten whole years of marriage. The decade-long anniversary gift is traditionally tin or aluminum, which symbolize the strength and resilience of your marriage. For a modern 10th-anniversary gift, turn to every girl's best friend: diamonds. This rare gem reflects your 10-year marriage's love and durability. If you and your partner have planned on upgrading an engagement ring, the 10th wedding anniversary is the perfect milestone to commemorate with such a gift. Silver and blue are associated with the big 10, and the daffodil, which symbolizes happiness, is the traditional 10-year flower.
11th Anniversary: Steel
Tough and strong, your relationship has built up a steely resolve and should be recognized for it. This is why the 11th wedding anniversary is traditionally celebrated with steel, the strongest metal in existence. The modern choice, however, is fashion jewelry. Color-wise seek out turquoise hues indicative of this anniversary's gemstone: turquoise.
Turquoise is one of the most ancient gemstones and was considered sacred by kings and shamans alike for its healing and protective properties. It is even said to kindle romance and love. For florals, precious morning glories are the way to go. Known for their extremely brief lifespan of just one day, they serve as reminders of the preciousness of time and that one momentous day when you first met.
12th Anniversary: Silk or Linen
Twelve years with your spouse have flown by in the blink of an eye. Celebrate by sprucing up your home life with objects of opulence and luxury like the traditional gifts of silk or linen. Those with an affinity for the contemporary will be happy to know that this year's modern gift is just as refined: pearls. The color of the year emphasizes this with tones of oyster white, and the magnificent peony blossom does not disappoint either. For gemstones, jade reigns supreme.
13th Anniversary: Lace
Thirteen years of marriage is anything but unlucky. In fact, it's all about the finery of life. The traditional 13th-anniversary gift is dainty lace, so delicate and lovely just like the balance of a steady marriage. Modern gifts keep with the theme in textiles or furs (faux, please!). The 13-year is represented by the color white and exotic-looking bouquets of hollyhock. Gemstones of warm citrine round out the year. Like a vibrant ray of sunshine, citrines are jovial gemstones that encourage us to embrace all the joys of life. The merry stone represents happiness and is said to release any blockages.
14th Anniversary: Ivory
Fourteen years strong! The traditional 14th-anniversary gift is characterized by animal items. In fact, the original way to commemorate this year was with ivory but was later amended and broadened to animal items in general after the controversial practices of ivory sourcing were brought to light. In keeping with a cruelty-free vibe, we encourage you to opt for items like faux fur or imitation pieces that give the illusion of ivory without the abuse. Or, consider adopting a pet, going horseback riding, or donating to an animal shelter or wildlife conservation cause.
For a more modern option go for gold—jewelry that is. The color of this year is ivory, as a nod to the former traditional gift, and sweet dahlias are the flower of choice. Gem-enthusiasts will want to seek out opal pieces to celebrate. Firey and ethereal, opals are recognized by the kaleidoscopic blazes of color within their milky depths. It's of little surprise that the gems are symbolic of love, passion, and incendiary desire.
15th Anniversary: Crystal
Let's raise a glass to fifteen years of marriage. And we mean that quite literally as you'll be celebrating this anniversary with the traditional gift of crystal, symbolizing the clarity and sparkle in your marriage. Crystal also refracts light into stunning spectrums that symbolize all of the beautiful facets of your relationship. This anniversary also marks the first year with a pricier traditional gift, which represents your shared sacrifices throughout the past 15 years. Watches serve as the modern gift, which embodies your time together (past, present, and future).
The 15 anniversary is represented by the ruby. Rubies are one of the hardest gemstones, coming up just slightly softer than the invincible diamond. What better way to highlight the strength and fortitude of 15 years of marriage? And finally, the rose stands as the customary 15-year foliage, which is fitting since red has been deemed the traditional 15th-anniversary color.
16th Anniversary: Wax
Sweet 16! The 16th wedding anniversary is oh-so sweet indeed. The traditional gift is wax, hard and tough at first glance but easily melted and malleable if there's the right spark. Sound familiar? Modernity calls for a slightly shinier aesthetic, suggesting silver hollowware to celebrate the occasion. (Hollowware refers to all the items in a table setting minus the cutlery.) Colors of silver and emerald green are representative of this year, along with blooms of enduring statice and peridot gemstones.
17th Anniversary: Furniture
After 17 years of marriage, the home that you have built together is probably one of your most cherished sanctuaries. The 17th-anniversary gift recognizes that with both traditional and modern gifts of furniture to deck out your pad. We love the idea of fleshing out an outdoor retreat for the two of you to enjoy together. Stay on theme with sunshine-hued accents that stick to the yellow color of the year or fill those newly acquired vases with frilly red carnations. Carnelian gemstones round out the vibrant assortment of 17th-anniversary must-haves.
18th Anniversary: Porcelain
Another year for the books. The 18th wedding anniversary is the porcelain anniversary through and through—both in a traditional and modern sense. Porcelain is the result of clay being heated at extremely high temperatures, something of coveted beauty that comes from humble beginnings and walking through fire. Perhaps a couples' ceramics class is in order. The 18th-anniversary color is blue and the gemstone is a cat's eye, but things get a bit unclear when it comes to florals.
19th Anniversary: Bronze
Just one year shy of that 20-year mark! You may consider the 19th year of marriage the bronze age, as both traditional and modern gifts call for bronze. Bronze is also the color this year, as are bronze-hued florals—specifically autumnal, bronze mums. Adding a bit of brightness to the earthy nature of this anniversary are aquamarine gemstones.
20th Anniversary: China
Two whole decades of marriage call for a massive celebration and the 20th anniversary customs fit in accordance with the splendor of this landmark achievement. The traditional gift is china, representing the beauty and delicate nature of your relationship. This also gives you the perfect excuse to update the kitchenware from your wedding registry a mere 20 years ago. Or, for any of you wanderlusters out there, a trip to see the Great Wall fits the theme perfectly.
For the modern spin, platinum symbolizes the strength of your marriage. Emerald serves as the traditional 20th-anniversary gemstone, green is associated with the milestone, and daylilies are the typical flower because of their strong but playful nature.
25th Anniversary: Silver
Halfway to the golden year! The 25-year mark has been denoted as the silver anniversary, and rightfully so. Representing both the traditional and modern gifts, silver reflects the brilliance and shine of your marriage. Spending a quarter of a century with your love definitely calls for a metal as valuable as silver. In fact, the tradition began during the Middle Ages when men would commemorate the milestone by gifting their wives a wreath of silver for their hair. The traditional flower for the 25th anniversary is the iris, and the color is (you guessed it) silver. Although not a gemstone, silver has also been associated with the 25th anniversary gem.
30th Anniversary: Pearl
Thirty years and thriving! For this anniversary, pearls represent the traditional gift. This pure gem symbolizes innocence and honesty, not to mention perfect round pearls are a rarity, just like your SO. And since pearls originate from oysters, why not book a snorkeling or scuba expedition with your love? As the modern gift, revert back to the 10th anniversary—diamonds round two!
Pearls also unsurprisingly reflect the 30-year gemstone, they are symbolic of divinity and wisdom and after 30 years of a blessed union you've no doubt earned some insight on marriage. Golden pearls are said to bring luck and prosperity, whereas white pearls are linked to fertility. And the lily, the poster-child for purity and innocence, is the traditional flower.
35th Anniversary: Coral
Thirty-five years and getting better by the day. Vibrant coral takes the cake as both the traditional gift and the preferred color this year, whereas beautiful jade—a stimulant of love and friendship—comes in as the modern gift. While there doesn't seem to be an exact flower to commemorate this year, it appears that any coral-hued bloom will do. Emeralds join their fellow green stones (jade) in representing the thirty-fifth year of matrimony. Spiritually, emeralds are believed to be heart-openers and conduits of compassion, patience, and undying love.
40th Anniversary: Ruby
You're well on your way to half a century together. For the 40th anniversary, it's all ruby everything. From the traditional and modern gifts to the gemstone and color, ruby is the name of the game to celebrate the big 40th. Symbolically rubies run the gamut from beauty, protection, wisdom, and power. Nasturtium represents the traditional flower, which is the only non-ruby custom for this wedding anniversary—though it does come in several scarlet hues. A ruby's incendiary looks are often associated with passion and the eternal flame of love, and we couldn't think of anything more appropriate for celebrating four decades of marriage. So the redder, the better for these gifts.
45th Anniversary: Sapphire
Forty-five and gracefully aging together like the finest of wine. The 45th wedding anniversary is all about blue. Glimmering sapphires take precedence as both the traditional and modern gifts, but also as the commemorative gemstone. Sapphires symbolize wisdom, faithfulness, and sincerity; virtues that were required to get to this milestone of your union. Unsurprisingly the color scheme adheres to the vivid blue theme. While there is no specified flora for this milestone, we would suggest opting for blue-hued blooms like delphiniums, hydrangeas, or hyacinths—or, simply pick up a bouquet of your spouse's all-time favorites.
50th Anniversary: Gold
Congrats—you've finally reached the long-awaited golden year, which is certainly no easy feat. Just like the 25th anniversary, gold represents the traditional and modern gifts, as well as the traditional color and gemstone for the 50th anniversary. And just like the origins of the big 25, the tradition was started when medieval, germanic wives were lavished with gifts of gilded wreaths by their husbands to commemorate the milestone. Violets—symbols of modesty, faith, and affection—serve as the 50-year flower. Your marriage has been as good as gold for the past 50 years, so make sure your gift reflects the sentiment!
55th Anniversary: Emerald
Five years shy of the megawatt anniversary. Celebrate 55 years accordingly with mesmerizing emeralds that serve as the traditional and modern gifts, and inspired the emerald-green color theme of the year. Emeralds have been historically linked to the goddess Venus, and are considered to be amulets of love, promoters of fertility, and inspirations of hope. Spiritually, the stone is associated with the heart chakra and believed to bring bliss to any union. Just as captivating, alexandrites and their color-changing qualities are the gemstones of choice for this momentous year.
60th Anniversary: Diamond
Sixty years—60 years!—of a successful marriage is something to celebrate. For a relationship to outlast six entire decades and still be going strong it must be invincible, your love unbreakable, and your patience indestructible. We're talking diamond strength. That's why this epic wedding anniversary is celebrated by the hardest and most coveted gem. Diamonds as traditional gifts, diamonds as modern gifts, diamonds as the commemorative gemstone, and diamond-white as the color of the year.
It takes the existence of powerful forces to create a diamond, and a milestone of such epic proportions only deserves to be outfitted by the strongest of jewels. And, since diamonds are forever, why not make your 60th-anniversary gift one with purpose? Consider pieces that you can see becoming heirlooms for your family—possibly serving as a future engagement ring for generations to come.