by Midnight Freemason Contributor
There are thousands of designs and variations in Masonic rings. Much like a fingerprint, each ring is as distinct and different from the next as the individual who wears it on his finger. From an inexpensive ring made of a dull material to a custom ring of fourteen karat gold designed by its owner, to an heirloom passed down through a family for generations, a Brothers ring not only tells the world he is a member of the world’s oldest fraternity but also tells a little about the man himself. Each ring has its own story, and listening to these stories can be quite fascinating. Each one, no matter cost of the ring to the owner, is priceless, because of its story and what the ring signifies.
My ring is no different. In 2002, after my petition for membership was voted upon and my degree work scheduled, I began to look at Masonic rings. I must have sent away for every Masonic catalog I could find. Sitting alone at night, I would look through each one like a kid at Christmas time. I would look at each ring and dream of how it would look on my hand. Finally, after months of debate, I settled upon a design. In my mind, it would be the perfect ring for me to display my pride of being a member of the Fraternity.
In October of 2002 I was finally raised to the Sublime degree of a Master Mason. The next morning I went to a local jeweler who also happened to be a member of my new lodge and placed the order for my ring. I took the catalog to the jeweler with me so I could show him the exact ring I wanted, and so there wouldn’t be any mistake. It was a large gold ring with a big blue stone. The Brother smiled (I’m not sure if he smiled because of my enthusiasm or because he made a sale) and he assured me it would be perfect when it arrived…in three weeks.
THREE WEEKS! How in the world would I subdue my passions for three weeks until my new beauty arrived? I kicked myself for waiting so long in ordering my ring. I finally convinced myself that waiting to receive my ring after my Master Mason degree was much easier than waiting to wear a ring I had in my possession for months before I was entitled to wear it.
After a very long and tortuous twenty one days, I got a call from my jeweler telling me my ring had arrived and I could finally pick it up. I’m sure it really wasn’t like this in real life but when I look back at that moment in time my memory goes to an event in a movie; I remember looking at my new ring with an angelic type heavenly choir singing in the background, and as I moved my fingers the rays of light which appeared from the Grand Lodge above made it sparkle. It had finally arrived.
Like a young girl who had just received an engagement ring, I walked around thinking everyone was looking at my new status symbol. The Brethren of my lodge complimented my purchase. One of the Brothers complimented it (I think) by saying “Oh my, it is really…large.” Ok, so it was a little showy, but I felt that the purpose of such a piece of jewelry so that the world would know I was a member of the world’s greatest fraternity.
After several years of wear, my beautiful, shiny ring began to lose its luster. Wearing it twenty four hours a day garnered nicks in the gold. The blue stone received several chips in the cuts of the facets and some of the enamel in the middle of the square and compass had fallen out. I had also began to lose some weight, and my well fitting ring now was too loose, and I even considered not wearing it for fear it would slip off and become lost. While I’m sure I was the only one to see these flaws, in my mind they were glaring. I decided that once I became Master of my lodge, I would consider replacing this ring with a Past Masters ring.
In the fall of 2006 while I was Senior Warden of my lodge, I attended the Indiana Masonic Home Festival in Franklin, Indiana. It was a beautiful day. I got to visit many friends I rarely was able to see since we all lived so far apart across the state. After a long day, I was sitting down to rest when I heard a familiar voice and a hand upon my shoulder. Standing behind me was my friend and Brother James Barkdull, Grand Master of Masons in Indiana and Carl Cullman, then the Grand Photographer for the Grand Lodge.
The three of us started talking. It had been a fine day and we all commented on the success of the day’s event. Brother Barkdull asked me if I would do him a favor. Of course I agreed; Most Worshipful Barkdull was a good friend, and one doesn’t say no to a Grand Master.
Brother Barkdull asked me if I had heard of the song “Masonic Ring” by Brother Howie Damron. At that point in my life I had not heard it yet. Jim told me about it and how they wanted to get photographs of brothers shaking hands to show show on the screen while the song played at the next Grand Lodge session. We started shaking hands for the camera but Brother Cullman suggested we switch rings. Apparently the swap would make the picture better.
I gave Grand Master Barkdull my ring and I put on his. It was a simple gold ring, average size, and fit me perfectly. Once the photos were taken, we were commenting on how we liked each other’s ring more than the ring we wore to the festivities. Jim suggested “Why don’t we swap rings until I install you as Worshipful Master in a few months.” In my mind it was a great idea. I would wear this ring which I preferred, and once I was Master I would look into getting my Past Master ring. It was the perfect plan.
Over the next few months I really hated the idea of giving up that ring. Pardon the pun, but the Grand Masters ring fit me like a glove. It was beautiful, and I didn’t need to worry I would lose it because it was too loose. And I must admit, it felt good when a couple of Brethren I knew who had aspersions to be Grand Master someday were green with envy at the thought of me possessing the Grand Master’s ring.
In December, the date arrived in which I was to be seated into the Oriental Chair of my lodge. Grand Master Barkdull had agreed nearly a year before to install me as Master. It was a great honor. The evening went very well. I was the first new Worshipful Master of my lodge in nearly six years. It was a great celebration!
Once I was in my chair in front of the group assembled, Grand Master Barkdull and I told the audience about our little swap. Jim asked me if I wanted my old ring back or did I want to make our swap permanent. With a smile on my face I agreed to the permanent swap. I have worn that same ring since then. Several years later, Jim told me he had picked up the ring from a pawn shop in Elkhart Indiana. I never asked him what he paid for it but I’m sure it wasn’t a lot.
I never did purchase a Past Masters ring or any other Masonic ring. I will always treasure the ring I have. To me, it also proves that behind every piece of Masonic ring there is a story, and that the sentiment behind the piece makes it more valuable than the precious metals it was made from.
WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana’s Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne’s Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.