History of Anniversary Gifts
"The practice of giving peculiar gifts on various wedding anniversaries originated in Central Europe. Among the medieval Germans it was customary for friends to present a wife with a wreath of silver when she had lived with her husband twenty-five years. The silver symbolized the harmony that was assumed to be necessary to make so many years of matrimony possible. On the fiftieth anniversary of a wedding the wife was presented with a wreath of gold. Hence arose 'silver wedding' and 'golden wedding.' This practice, borrowed from the Germans, has been elaborated upon in modern times" - INFORMATION ROUNDUP by George Stimpson (1948) .
By middle-to-late 1930s, people began to celebrate 1st, 10th, 20th and 70th anniversary along with 25th and 50th. A gift for each of these milestone anniversary years evolved. The logic of presenting gifts was that stability deserves a reward and more the stability the greater should be the reward.
In 1937 the American National Retail Jeweler Association issued a more comprehensive list which associated a material for each Anniversary year up to the 15th Anniversary and then each fifth year after that up to the 60th Anniversary.
"Although the first anniversary is considered the paper or plastic one, the second, cotton and so on, it is not mandatory that the gift be of the "appropriate" material or composition for the specific year. The exception is in the case of the tenth (tin or aluminum) and twenty-fifth, which is known as the "silver anniversary." In these cases, the gift usually "goes" with the anniversary. For other years it is equally correct, and often more interesting, to buy what seems appropriate for the particular couple and carry out the theme in the wrapping or decorating of the package. Thus a gift for the seventh anniversary could be wrapped in copper-colored paper, a lace handkerchief might decorate the package for the thirteenth, and so on." - ETIQUETTE FOR MODERNS by Elinor Ames (1965).
An alternative list to the traditional anniversary list is also in popular use and is known as the Contemporary (or Modern) Wedding Anniversary list. It has been around for a number of years now, which makes its title rather misleading as none of the items listed are particularly modern.
This list provides alternative material suggestions for the years and include "modern" items such as electrical appliances and Fashion Jewelry. This is a more comprehensive list than the traditional list and associates a material for ever year up until the 50th Wedding Anniversary. It also goes on in steps of every 5th year up until the 100th Wedding Anniversary.