Incorporated in 1920 by Indianapolis residents Harry J. Herff and Randall H. Jones, Herff Jones initially manufactured insignia jewelry. Its products expanded to include a wide array of items related to educational events, such as class rings, yearbooks, caps and gowns, and portraits, and classroom instructional materials, including maps, globes, anatomical models, and multimedia teaching programs. The company also made jewelry and award items for the commercial market.
In the 1990s, there were approximately 3,000 employees and 700 sales representatives serving the needs of business and education at all levels throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada. The company had 20 manufacturing and distribution centers in 13 states and Canada. Herff Jones provided support for many well-established educational, youth, health, ethnic, and general civic programs. The company was the founding sponsor of the Principal’s Leadership Award, a national scholarship award program for deserving student leaders, and has consistently provided support programs to meet the ongoing motivational needs of schools throughout the nation.
In 2011, the company sold its photography division to Lifetouch. That year, the company completed the acquisition of Varsity Brands and then in 2013 purchased BSN Sports. The entire company rebranded as Varsity Brands in 2014, and the education division divested of its Replogle Globe and Education Division. In 2022 Herff Jones became a minority investor in England-based StageClip, a company that uses livestreaming to capture graduates as they cross the stage at participating high schools and colleges. The investment moves the company into the digital age. Herff Jones, operating under the Varsity Brands umbrella, continues its legacy of providing class rings and other emblematic jewelry, yearbooks, graduation announcements, diplomas, and caps and gowns.
In fall 2023, Atlas Holdings, a Greenwich-Connecticut-based private equity firm, acquired the Herff Jones Graduation Business, which represents the core functions and products of the Herff Jones brand including class rings and jewelry, caps and gowns, diplomas, frames and announcements, and motivation and recognition programs. The company will continue to be based in Indianapolis and will operate independently.