As Scottish Rite Masons, we love to show our pride in the fraternity by wearing Masonic symbols. Wearing the square and compasses or the Scottish Rite double-headed eagle helps connect us to our Brothers and remind ourselves of our commitment to the values of Freemasonry. While you can get almost any item emblazoned with Masonic symbols, from golf bags to T-shirts, one of the most significant ways to represent the fraternity is through a Scottish Rite ring.
Whether you own one of these rings yourself or have seen a fellow Brother wearing one, keep reading to learn more about their rich history and symbolism.
14th Degree Scottish Rite Ring
14° Ring, 1920. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of Luther Davis Jr., 2008.011.1. Photograph by David Bohl.
When a Scottish Rite Mason attains the 14th degree, he is entitled to wear the 14th degree ring. The ring is optional, issued by the Mason’s Lodge of Perfection if he requests to receive one. The ring symbolizes the completion of the Lodge of Perfection and serves as a reminder of the Brother’s Masonic journey.
Symbols of the 14th Degree Ring
The design of the 14th degree ring was formalized in 1882, when it was described in the Proceedings of the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, as “a plain, flat band of gold, five-sixteenths of an inch in width, having engraved or enameled on the outside thereof an equilateral triangle.” In Freemasonry, the equilateral triangle represents the three essential attributes of deity: omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience.
Within the triangle is the Hebrew letter yod, which corresponds to the English letter J. Yod represents the first letter of the name of the Supreme Being.
Engraved within the ring is the motto of the 14th degree: “Whom virtue unites, death cannot separate.” Typically, the Latin motto “Virtus junxit, mors non separabit” is used, but it can be engraved in any language of the recipient’s choice. The ring’s engraving may also include the owner’s name and the date on which he received the 14th degree.
How to Wear the 14th Degree Ring
The 14th degree ring is intended to be worn on the third finger of the left hand, as established in the September 1882 Proceedings of the Supreme Council.
The ring should be worn exactly as it was issued by the Lodge of Perfection, in accordance with the above description. Members are prohibited from changing the design by adding enamel, gemstones, or other ornamentation to the ring.
33rd Degree Scottish Rite Ring
33° Ring, 1998. Irons and Russell Co., New York, New York. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of John H. Glenn Jr., in memory and honor of Vern Riffe, a good friend, 33° Mason, and the longest serving speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives in history, 2000.018a. Photograph by David Bohl.
In 32° Scottish Rite Freemasonry, the 33rd degree may be conferred upon a Brother in recognition of his contributions to the fraternity or to humanity as a whole. Only a Scottish Rite Mason who has earned the 33rd degree has the right to wear the 33rd degree ring.
Symbols of the 33rd Degree Ring
As established in the Constitutions of the 32nd Degree Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, the 33rd degree ring consists of “three plain, half-round gold rings united into one, not exceeding five-sixteenths of an inch in width, and having on the outside an equilateral triangular-shaped plate, with the numbers 33 in Arabic characters.”
The ring is engraved with the motto of the 33rd degree, “Deus meumque jus” (God and my right), the member’s name, and the date on which he received the 33rd degree.
No alterations can be made to the 33rd degree ring, as any changes would detract from the ring’s symbolic meaning. The true value of the ring comes from the Supreme Council’s decision to bestow it upon a Brother who is worthy of the 33rd, not from precious gemstones or extra ornamentation.
How to Wear the 33rd Degree Ring
According to the Constitutions of the 32nd Degree Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, the 33rd degree ring is intended to be worn with the base of the triangle toward the wrist. In the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, the 33rd degree ring is usually worn on the third finger of the left hand, while in the Southern Masonic Jurisdiction, it is usually worn on the little finger of the right hand.
Upon death, the ring should go with the Brother to the grave, be returned to the Supreme Council, or be kept (but not worn) by a loved one.
John Glenn’s 33rd Degree Ring
The 33rd degree Scottish Rite ring pictured here belonged to astronaut and Scottish Rite Mason John Glenn. In 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. After retiring from NASA and while serving as a Senator in Ohio, Glenn was conferred the 33rd degree for his contributions to humanity. Glenn wore this 33rd degree ring when he returned to space in the shuttle Discovery in 1998.
32nd Degree Scottish Rite Ring
32° Ring, 1920-1960. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of Brita Flemming, 2011.039.29. Photograph by David Bohl.
While the 14th and 33rd degree rings are the only rings officially issued by the Lodge of Perfection and Supreme Council, some Brothers design their own rings to commemorate being 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Masons.
Symbols of the 32nd Degree Ring
The Constitutions of the 32nd Degree Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction authorize a Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret to wear a ring with the double-headed Scottish Rite eagle. Beyond the inclusion of the double-headed eagle, there is no officially mandated design, so 32nd degree Scottish Rite rings can vary greatly in appearance. Common symbols include the number 32, triangles, the Hebrew letter yod, and the square and compasses.
Since the owner is ordering a customized ring to represent his personal Masonic journey, the ring will sometimes also contain symbols from other Masonic orders. For this reason, a 32nd degree Scottish Rite ring may feature symbols like the Shriner’s crescent and scimitar, the York Rite triple Tau, or the Knights Templar cross.
Research material provided by the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library.