The subject of an old joke:

A man saw a large brass rat in an antique store. He decided to buy it. The store owner informed him that this particular item was non-returnable. "It's been returned twice already, and I don't want to see it again." The man shrugged, paid for the statue and carried it to his car.

As he left the store, he saw a couple rats near the doorway and more near his car but he didn't think much of it. As he was driving home, though, rats came out of the gutters, out of buildings, out of everywhere, all chasing his car. Panicking, the man tossed the brass rat out of the window as he drove over a bridge, over the railing, and down into the river. The army of rats followed the statue into the water.

The man turned and went back to the store. The owner recognized him and said "Now, I told you no returns on that rat." The man replied, "Oh, no problem with that, but I was wondering if you had any brass lawyers."

(Sometimes the punch line of this joke uses "brass politicians" instead.)

The brass rat is the name of the class ring for MIT students. Each year, the rat is redesigned by a student committee, but there are several things that remain consistent through the years.

The Face
The face of the rat has on it a beaver (the MIT mascot), in profile. Undergraduates wear their rat so that the rear end of the beaver faces them; alumni/ae wear the rat with the rear end facing away (As a student, the beaver shits on you; as an alum, it shits on the rest of the world). Hidden in the face are usually the letters MIT, and the class year.
The Skyline
The sides of the ring normal to the finger's axis contain the skyline of Boston on one side, and Cambridge on the other. Boston is on the "bottom" (ass end) of the ring), so it faces undergraduates (who look out at Boston), while Cambridge is looked at by alums. (Graduate student versions of the brass rat typically do not have skylines).
Mens et Manus
One side of the ring has Mens et Manus (from the MIT seal), usually with MIT in large letters above them.
Great Dome
On the face opposite Mens et Manus the ring has the Great Dome, facing onto Killian Court. Inscribed onto the dome one usually finds IHTFP. The class year is also inscribed on this face somewhere.

Examples of some hidden features of the 1997 brass rat:

The brass rat is traditionally made of gold; however, many years also have a steel version, which is known as a Stainless Steel Rat.

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