Freemasonry, a secret society shrouded in esoteric tradition, features many rituals, signs and symbols. The masonic ring is one of the ornaments of freemasonry that features these signs. Wearing the ring of a mason demands a certain etiquette, however. The following is a description of the meaning behind these rings, the rings themselves, and the rules for wearing them.
Meaning of the Ring
The masonic ring symbolises several concepts to a Freemason. The circular nature of the ring demonstrates the "eternity of the circle." This "eternal" nature represents the bond of a mason to the brotherhood of freemasonry, in the same way that wedding rings show a bond of one person to another.
The ring is also a visual sign to the world of a member's dedication to the fraternity, as well as his authenticity, a concept that Freemasons describe as a "cable tow," a binding of the person to freemasonry forever.
History of the Signet
People of various cultures, including popes, have worn a "signet" ring throughout history. Signet means "sign," and signet rings were designed to display the authenticity of the wearer. The pope's ring is large and gold and is called the "Fisherman's Ring." Other historical figures who wore signet rings were Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus, Nero and Michelangelo.
The masonic ring is first made with no ornamentation on its face. The symbol that the wearer would like to display is then engraved upon it. This is usually the masonic "square and compass," the universal symbols of freemasonry. The ring may also feature the letter G in the middle. G symbolises the word GAOTU, an acronym for great architect of the universe. The ring will feature these symbols raised on the surface.
Other Masonic Rings
Other masonic signet rings include the Knights Templar, the Scottish Rite and the Shrine ring.
The Knights Templar ring features a symmetrical cross in the centre. This ring signifies freemasonry's lineage claim to the Knights Templar, who protected Christian crusaders on pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The Scottish Rite ring is a plain band of gold with an equilateral triangle enclosing the Hebrew letter Yud, the initial of a deity. The inside typically reads, "Whom virtue unites, death will not separate." The Shrine ring displays a sword and a crescent. As there are many variations of freemasonry, there are also many different kinds of rings. These include Blue Lodge, Eastern Star and other branches.
Rules and Etiquette
There are certain rules and etiquette involved with wearing masonic rings. First, only a master mason should wear a ring. The ring is also generally worn on the third finger of the right hand. In addition, unless the master mason is a member of more than one branch or lodge, it is considered unseemly to wear more than one masonic ring.