R.W. Bro. Bill Marks
The ring is a symbol of the Covenant entered into with the Order, as the wedding ring is the symbol of the Covenant of Marriage, is worn in some of the higher Degrees of Freemasonry. It is not used in Ancient Craft Masonry.
In reference to the rings worn in the higher Degrees of Freemasonry, it may be said that they partake of the double symbolism of power and affection. The ring, as a symbol of power and dignity, was worn in ancient time by kings and men of elevated rank and office. In the Bible (Genesis 41:42) we note that Pharoh took off his ring and bestowed it to Joseph as a mark of the power he had conferred upon him. It in this light that the Inspectors General (33rd Degree) of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry wear rings as Sovereigns of the Rite. But, those who receive only the Fourteenth Degree, in the same Rite, wear the ring as a symbol of the Covenant of Affection and Fidelity into which they have entered.
While on the subject of the ring as a symbol of Masonic meaning I do not believe it would be irrelevant to refer to the "magic" ring of King Solomon of which both the Jews and the Mohammedans have abundant tradition. The Mohammedans have a book on magic rings entitled "Scalcuthal", in which they trace the ring of King Solomon from Jared, the father of Enoch. It was by means of this ring, as a talisman of wisdom and power, some say, enabled Solomon to perform the wonderful acts and accomplish those vast enterprises that have made his name so celebrated as the wisest monarch of the earth.
While there may not be as many versions of the Masonic ring as there are Masonic lapel pins, there are several, most notably the square and compasses and the so-called Tubal-Cain sign. The ring can be found crafted from many materials and the Masonic symbols have been placed on stones, or artificial replicas of stones, that are red, blue and black. Some of the myths surrounding these rings are that the red setting indicates a brother under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, while the blue setting is for those lodges that evolved from the United Grand Lodges of England. The black is just accepted. I have never heard anyone try to associate it with Prince Hall Masonry or lodges that are predominately comprised of Black brethren such as Equity #106, on the Register of the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia.
Probably the greatest myth, and one which I have seen debated in earnest by well-meaning brethren, is the proper way to wear a ring which depicts the square and compasses. My Brothers, how could there be a proper way to wear a ring which has not been officially sanctioned as a jewel or symbol. As far as I can determine only one Grand Lodge has ever attempted to rule on the subject. The Grand Lodge of North Carolina has ruled that a Mason should wear the ring so the tips of the compasses are pointed towards him. But, you will note, that even this ruling is a suggestion and not mandatory.
The consensus is that if a Masonic ring is worn to advise those who see it that the wearer is a Master Mason, the tips of the compasses should be pointed towards the tips of the fingers. If the ring is worn to remind the wearer that he is a Master Mason, the ring should be worn with the tips of the compasses pointed towards him. The choice is yours to make!
A word of caution Brethren. Do not take the wearing of a ring as "lawful Masonic information". These rings can be bought anywhere, at any time, by anyone!
This paper was prepared by R.W. Bro. Bill Marks, Grand Historian, Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia, and was donated to the Board of Masonic Education while Bro. Marks was its Chairman (1990-1993).