I wanted to talk this week about something that tends to be a lengthy and often heated topic, even among Brothers. The issue is often that the Masonic ring can mean many different things to many different people. Some see it as a symbol of their own Masonic journeys and their dedication to the craft, others see it as an opportunity to share Freemasonry with the world and educate others on the topic, and of course, still others see it simply as a ring, and no more.
What is a Masonic ring?
It seems like such a simple question, but it does not have a simple answer. As we know, there are three degrees given within the Blue Lodge, Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason. Although many things are given to a man when he joins a Lodge (even more so when he becomes a MM), a ring is not one of them. Actually, as a rule, no rings are given to a Mason from his Lodge at all. In fact, there are only two official rings given within Freemasonry to a candidate. Those are the rings given after receiving the 14th and 33rd degrees of the Scottish Rite. Any other ring you may see, has been chosen and purchased by the candidate, or given to him from a friend or family member. Most often the rings that you will see people wearing are rings with a square and compass (Blue Lodge rings) or rings with the double headed eagle (usually 32nd degree Scottish Rite rings). Some men may get new rings after their year as Worshipful Master, or after joining a appendant body (Scottish Rite and the Shrine are the most popular as far as rings are concerned.) It is often recommended (though not necessarily followed) that a man not wear a ring, or other Masonic markings until he has received his Master Mason degree. There is no requirement that a member wear a ring or any other type of jewelry that may mark him as a Mason.
What does a Masonic ring mean?
Again, this seems like such a simple question, but has no correct answer. There are as many meanings to a Masonic ring as there are men wearing them.. I found this reason interesting:
To be forever bound to your obligation, which is your solemn promise, made of your own free will, before the Great Architect of the Universe, as well as your family, friends and brothers signifying your true and heartfelt desire to be forever bound in unity with the fraternity.
This is of course, not the only answer to the question. Some men use it as a kind of unspoken public promotion of their dedication to the fraternity and their Brothers. Others may wear it in hopes that someone may see it and inquire about it, and bring a new Brother to the fraternity. There are many stories of men who found themselves with a petition in their hands after they had asked a stranger about their Masonic rings. It can also serve as a way to identify other brothers whom you may not know. Of course, simply owning and wearing a Masonic ring is not enough; there are a number of phrases and passes taught to a new Mason that helps identify other Brothers who may be strangers. This is actually very important to identifying members, especially today when anyone can get on the internet and order a ring.
What’s the right way to wear a Masonic ring?
I bet you’re figuring out a pattern in this week’s article. Again, there is no correct answer here. There is no correct or proper way to wear a Masonic ring, except for the way that you feel comfortable wearing it. Many men wear the ring on the ring finder of their right hand, opposite of their wedding band. If you want to wear it on the first finger of your left hand however, no one is going to come knocking on your door wanting you to correct it. Usually, however, it is considered improper to wear more than one Masonic ring at the same time (save that for lapel pins!). In addition to this, many Masons do not recommend using a Masonic ring as a wedding band. The idea here is that if something happens that ends the marriage, you may associate those feelings with the fraternity, and it may be best to just keep those two things separate.
The big discussion among the brethren is of course, which way the square and compass should be pointing when wearing a Masonic ring. Some men choose to wear the ring so that the two legs of the compass point toward themselves. Some say that this is to remind them of their obligation, or to remind themselves that they are Masons, and that it should reflect in all that they do. For these men, the ring serves as a self reminder of the tenants they honor and the fraternity that they represent. Others wear their rings so that the two legs of the compass point away from themselves. It is said that wearing the ring in this manner, that others see his actions and associate them with Masonry. Wearing the ring with the points facing out is actually more historically accurate. In the past, the rings were used as signet rings, for sealing the wax on letters, and this wearing points up would cause the seal to be right side up. A shorted version of this debate is that the points down reflects the light inward, and the points up reflects it outward. There is no right or wrong way to wear a Masonic ring, you may simply choose to wear it the way that you grab it off your bedside table in the morning. There are no edicts from any Grand Lodge stating the “correct” way to wear a Masonic ring, the choice is yours.
Where can I get a Masonic ring?
Some of us are lucky enough to receive rings as gifts when we receive degrees, or be handed family heirlooms. Others are not so lucky, and we are tasked with finding our own rings. There are thousands out there in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and prices. My number one recommendation for someone that is in the market for a Masonic ring is to look at pawn shops.It’s less of a gamble than buying online, since pawn shops will only buy in rings that are gold plated at the very least.Antique stores are also a great place to look. You may get lucky and get a great price on a really nice ring. Even if you think your town is too small to have any Masonic items in the shops, check it out anyway, you may be pleasantly surprised.
There are a lot of places to get Masonic rings online, and navigating the sites looking for the right one can be a bit daunting.Masonic rings come in many shapes and sizes. T’s looks like a class ring, whereas my OES rings are much smaller and delicate. Many Masonic rings are mass produced, if you are willing to spend a bit more, you can get something custom made. As long as you are a Master Mason, there is no rule as far as what a ring has to have, or can’t have. However, please respect the fraternities, and do not wear a ring for degrees that you have not yet received. It is considered bad taste, and in many areas can bar you from ever receiving the degrees.
This is by no means an exhaustive list.
Amazon is a great source, especially if you aren’t looking to spend much. The rings here start at just $2.
JemsbyJem is a great ring resource, and has some specialty rings you might not find elsewhere, like a Masonic EMT ring.
The Master’s Jewel also has some very unique rings, however as they are all handcrafted they can become quite pricey.
Etsy can be great if you’re looking for an antique or something unique like a spoon ring. Buy carefully here though, often people resell items that you can find for a much cheaper price.
Gordon’s Masonic Rings are great because they are all stainless steel, handmade, and all rings cost the same amount- $105.
If none of those stores have anything you like, you may want to check out the mass market Masonic stores. Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list, and many of these stores carry the same item, so be sure and shop around.
Lauterer– Check out the sidebar for more rings
Please note that often these store sell more than just Masonic rings, and will usually also sell rings for the major appendant bodies. So, if you are looking for an OES ring, or a Shrine ring, or anything else, many of these stores will also carry them.
Hope that this was an insightful look into something that seems so simple. Have a wonderful week!