Rings have adorned human hands and signified important bonds for thousands of years. In ancient Egypt, the circular shape represented eternity. For the Romans, rings sealed marriage vows. And in Freemasonry, rings emerged as symbols of membership and fraternal ideals.
Masonic rings rose to prominence in the 18th and 19th centuries as ways for members to identify with one another. Today, while not officially distributed, rings remain deeply personal emblems gifted to new Masons, often passed down through generations from father to son. They represent a Mason’s enduring connection to the ancient traditions and moral lessons of the craft.
This article will explore the history and symbolism behind Masonic rings. We’ll look at the different styles that represent various appendant bodies, discuss common designs and their meanings, and touch on the proper way to wear these prideful tokens of membership. Whether an heirloom or recent gift, Masonic rings contain centuries of meaning.
Origins and Tradition of Masonic Rings
Masonic rings were not originally distributed to members but have become treasured personal gifts. They are often passed down from father to son or grandfather to grandson when the younger Mason reaches the sublime degree of Master Mason.
These rings rose to greater prominence in the 18th and 19th centuries when Freemasonry was at the height of its popularity. During this time, the rings allowed members to publicly identify one another. Wearing a Masonic ring demonstrated one’s pride in the fraternal order.
Today, while not officially presented, Masonic rings hold deep personal meaning for those who wear them. They represent a brother’s solemn obligation to uphold the secrets, lessons, and traditions of Freemasonry. The choice to wear a ring reflects their commitment to the craft.
In this way, while Masonic rings began as identifying marks, over time they have become symbols of the enduring connection between a Mason and his beloved fraternity. They bind the wearer to centuries of history and symbolism.
Masonic Ring Variations and Styles
There are many different styles of Masonic rings, with variations for members of different bodies and degrees.
Blue Lodge Masons often wear simple bands with blue stones. These represent the first three degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason.
Members of the York Rite may wear rings with red stones, signifying they have attained the fourth degree of Royal Arch Masonry.
Scottish Rite Masons who reach the 32nd degree can wear a ring bearing the double-headed eagle emblem. This iconic Scottish Rite symbol features an eagle with two heads, one looking east and one looking west.
Shriners also have distinctive rings depicting a scimitar and crescent. The scimitar sword represents the backbone of the fraternity, which is made up of Masons. The crescent moon and star are iconic symbols of the Shriners’ Middle Eastern motif.
There are also rings representing different leadership positions, like Worshipful Master or Past Master of a Masonic Lodge. The variations and styles reflect the diverse branches and degrees of Freemasonry.
Common Masonic Ring Symbols
Masonic rings contain many ancient symbols that are iconic to Freemasonry. Two of the most prominent designs feature the square and compasses and the letter “G.”
The square and compasses emblem represents the tools used by stonemasons, from which the Fraternity arose. The square signifies fairness and morality, while the compasses represent self-restraint and balance. Together, these tools teach symbolic lessons about virtue.
In many rings, the square and compasses surround the letter “G.” Different interpretations exist for this letter. Some view it as standing for “Geometry,” calling to mind the geometric knowledge required for architecture and builder’s crafts. Others see it as meaning “God,” or the “Great Architect of the Universe,” reminding the wearer of their spiritual purpose.
Additional symbols that may appear in Masonic rings include pillars, the All-Seeing Eye, the Star of David, and numbers representing significant Masonic degrees. The choices in design reflect the nuanced teachings and history contained within Freemasonry.
How to Wear a Masonic Ring
There are various opinions on the proper way to wear a Masonic ring, although no universally accepted rule exists. Some believe the points of the compasses should be worn toward the body, positioned over the heart. This serves as a constant symbolic reminder for the Masons to keep their obligations forefront of their minds and consciences.
Another common practice involves turning the ring outward once a Mason gains enough knowledge and experience. For example, a Worshipful Master who leads a lodge may rotate the ring to display the emblem to the outside world. This shows their proficiency in the craft.
Functionally, rings were also worn with the points facing outwards to press into wax when sealing letters and documents, leaving the impression of the square and compasses.
Ultimately, there are no strict rules that govern Masonic ring-wearing. The choice comes down to personal preference and what the individual feels best represents their role, knowledge, and pride in Freemasonry. The key is wearing the ring with sincere reverence and respect due its deep meaning.
Masonic rings have a rich history spanning centuries and continents. What began as identifying tokens evolved into proud declarations of membership and personal reminders of Masonic ideals. The many variations in style represent the diverse appendant bodies and degrees of the fraternity. Common symbols such as the square and compasses hold deep moral lessons passed down through the ages. And while traditions exist for wearing them, Masonic rings ultimately reflect the individual choices of each brother.
Above all, Masonic rings signify the ancient and enduring connection shared between Freemasons around the world. They bind the wearer to past and future generations who don the simple, symbolic band. For the traveling man, the ring serves as a prideful emblem of their role in upholding the values and teachings of this time-honored fraternity. Masonic rings will continue to adorn the hands of brethren, reminding them of promises kept and friendships formed.