What are Signet Rings?
Masonic signet rings are seals used to show the authenticity of the owners of the rings. The word ‘signet’ has it origin from the word ‘sign.’ In history, signet rings have been used to stamp official documents and declarations. So, signet rings provide a sign, a signature or a symbol to mark or stamp official documents.
Seal of Authentication
The exact time that Masonic rings started to be in use is unknown. The rings have always been a part of religion and royalty in various cultures throughout history.
Signet rings have been worn by Popes, Roman Emperors, Kings, Bishops and other powerful religious men and rulers as an indication of their power, wealth and importance. The most widely recognized signet ring is the one worn by the Pope.
The signet ring worn by the Pope is called the Fisherman’s Ring. It is a large, ornate gold seal ring that indicates the seal of the Pope’s authority.
Anytime a pope dies, his ring is broken by the Cardinals, and a new signet ring is created for every new succeeding pope.
The rings worn by popes are considered sacred. A pre-owned ring is unacceptable as it is seen as a misuse, profanation, abuse and desecration of something sacred. Therefore, rings are never passed on. They are destroyed after use, and a new ring is created for a new pope.
What Does Profane Mean?
Pro means without, Fanum means temple. So Pro-Fanum means someone that is outside the temple or someone that is not yet initiated.
Seal of Distinction
A signet ring indicates an individual as a high-ranking person, an important person or someone that is well-positioned in the society. A signet ring serves as a seal that shows the importance and dignity of the wearer.
Rank and Status Symbol
Signet rings and seals serve as a sign of visual and symbolic certification that validates any act executed in the name of an individual.
Plumbline of Authenticity
Signet rings provide a ‘Plumbline of Authenticity.’ They prove the authenticity of the wearer and the power that the wearer has. Signet rings were so powerful that anyone who stole one could be punished by death.
These rings were originally worn by noblemen, kings and religious leaders. But later, merchants and tradesmen started to wear them. Signet rings worn by merchants and tradesmen had logos and mottoes cut into them. Signet rings worn by royalty had precious metals, enamels and gems of various colors and facets on them.
Signet Rings That Are Popular
Pompey: (106-48 B.C.)
Pompey also known as Gnaeus Pompeis Magnus was one of the greatest generals of all time. The signet ring worn by Pompey had a lion bearing a sword. When he returned from Spain to Italy in his 70s, he put an end to the slave revolt that Spartacus led.
Julius Caesar- circa (July 12/13, 102/100 B.C. - March 15, 44 B.C.)
The ring worn by Julius Caesar had an armed Venus on it. He was famous for naming the month of July after himself. He also came up with a new calendar, called the Julian calendar. He was also the one that started giving February an extra day every 4th year known as a Leap year. Julius Caesar was murdered by Brutus in 44 BC. Julius Caesar died on March 15. That day is also known as The Ides of March. The Ides of March is a calendar division that is based on the phases of the moon. In some months, the Ides is on the 15th. In some other month, it is on the 13th. The tragic play Julius Caesar wrote by Shakespeare was based on his story. The play popularized his story, and the Ides of March is now remembered as a fateful day.
Caesar Augustus - (63 B.C. - 14 C.E.)
The signet ring worn by Caesar Augustus had a sphinx at first. Then later the head of Alexander the Great was on it. Later, his own image went on the signet ring. Caesar Augustus was the grand-nephew of Julius Caesar, and he was the first emperor of Rome.
In 27 B.C., the Roman Senate granted Octavian his birth name and called him Augustus meaning the Exalted when they made him the Emperor over all of the Roman Empire.
Under Emperor Augustus, Rome attained a lot of glory. Peace was restored after 100 years of civil war. He maintained a good currency system and kept the government honest. Free trade was created among the provinces. Literature blossomed under his rule. The highway system that connected Rome with its empire was extended, and an efficient postal service was developed. A lot of aqueducts, bridges and buildings were constructed, and they were decorated with lovely works of arts.
Nero (37 AD - 68 AD)
The signet ring of Emperor Nero had a representation of the flaying of Marsyas by Apollo. Emperor Nero was the last of the Julio/Claudian Emperors. He was a brutal, ineffective and neglectful leader.
In his writings, Cicero mentioned signet rings. Pliny (23/4-79 CE) mentioned that signet rings started to be worn on the little finger instead of the ring finger.
Michaelangelo - (1475-1564)
Michaelangelo had a signet ring that contained the carving of a segment of the Sistine Chapel. Michaelangelo is well known for his oil paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. One of the paintings showed Adam with a raised arm in fingertip union with God as God communes with His creation.
How Are Masonic Signet Rings Created?
The basic Masonic ring is first created without any ornament or symbol on its face.
Then an imprint of the symbol that the wearer wants to display is then cut onto the flat metal surface of the ring. Most cases, the symbol is the Masonic square and compasses that may or may not have the Letter G at the center.
A negative mold is formed to create a positive image the same way lead is poured into a form to create a fishing weight.
A true Masonic Signet Ring leave a raised positive design on the material onto which it is pressed. The material is typically wax. When it is pressed on the soft material, the material is then forced into the indented or incised area of the ring’s face. This creates a raised image design on the wax that is being stamped.
This is different from a raised face type of ring that leaves an indented design in the wax.
Modern Masonic Signet Ring
Modern Masonic signet rings don’t have seals. This is because they do not need to place a seal into wax on any important paper. This is why most modern Masonic rings have flat-face, raised-face designs. Yet, the modern Masonic signet ring shows the genuine, original construction and design of the seal of the traditional Knights Templar Order.
How Should a Masonic Ring Be Worn? What Finger Should the Masonic Ring be Worn On?
There is no right or wrong way to wear a Masonic Signet Ring. It can be worn on any finger and on any hand. Most married men wear the rings on the opposite hand from which they wear their wedding rings. They wear them mostly on their 3rd fingers. They can also be worn on the little finger.
What direction should the Square and the Compasses face? If my hand is laid flat in front of me, should the compasses point outwards and away from me or towards me?
This is something that has been debated among several brothers and Grand Lodges have no strict regulation about it.
When the square and compasses symbol is displayed on a button and building, tradition requires that the compasses points face downwards. When they are displayed on an altar, they point away from the Master.
When the ring is worn with the compasses legs facing you, it serves as a reminder of your obligation. When the compasses legs face outwards towards others, it serves to identify you as a Master Mason, and it is a sign of your authenticity. You can wear the ring with the two legs of the compasses facing away from you like the original signet rings were worn, so the image of their seal was embedded into the wax. The waxen seal created by the traditional rings will have both legs of the compasses pointing downward.
Fraternal Masonic Signet Rings
Today, Freemasons wear their Freemason rings as a symbol of their brotherhood, loyalty and a statement telling others that they are a member of the oldest fraternity on earth.
Other Names for A Masonic Ring
The other names for a Master Mason ring are Masonic Signet Rings and Blue Lodge Masonic ring. The word signet connotes the construction of the face of the ring.
How Long Does It Take Before a Member Can Become a Master Mason?
Previously, it took about seven years to receive a Master Mason’s degree in the United States. But today, in most jurisdictions in the United States, members of the brotherhood can receive their Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees within a few months.
In other countries, members can receive their Master Mason degree after a year. While it takes as much as seven years in some jurisdictions.
Not all jurisdictions in the world have proficiency requirements, and not all use the time-honored method. These jurisdictional differences are responsible for the length of time it takes to receive a Master Mason degree.
When a lot of brothers complete their Master Mason degree, they display their Seal of Authenticity as a Master Mason by buying and wearing a Masonic signet ring. You can get one of these rings from our store here at Bricks Masons.