Preserving and sharing our Masonic heritage

Exhibit Overview

Mason Wearing Past Master Jewel

Badges of Brotherhood:

Past Master Jewels from the Collections of the Henry W. Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Drawing on the Henry W. Coil Library and Museum’s collection of Masonic jewels, the exhibition Badges of Brotherhood explores the history and variety of Past Master Jewels. The exhibit includes examples of Past Master Jewels from California, and other Grand Lodges in the United States, England, and Asia.

From the early nineteenth century to the present day, members of Masonic lodges have celebrated the contributions of the master of their lodge by presenting him with a personalized jewel to mark the conclusion of his term. These jewels, known as Past Master Jewels, were originally made of silver and were often engraved with the recipient’s name, lodge name, and the dates of his term. Over time, the design of Past Master’s jewels evolved to include different metals, precious stones, and were produced in a variety of shapes and sizes. Worn either on the breast of a jacket or suspended from a collar, the style of Past Master jewels is determined by the jurisdiction, local tradition, and the lodge’s wealth.

Past Master

Styles of Past Master Jewels

Old English
Old English Jewel
Scottish Jewel
Modern English
Modern English Jewel
California Jewel

The design of Past Master Jewels varies according to the style adopted by a Grand Lodge. The American form of the jewel is derived from the early Scottish style of an open compass with an inverted square in the center. The American version replaces the square with a sun in splendor at center. Both versions feature a curved bar connecting the points at the base of the compass, called a quadrant, marked in degrees for measuring angles. The English form of the jewel is a square with a pendant diagram of Euclid’s 47th mathematical proposition, sometimes called the Pythagorean Theorem, suspended below in balance. Earlier versions of the English style, called the Gallows style, placed the square at a right angle with Euclid’s proposition hanging from the shorter arm of the square.


Symbology of Past Master Jewels

The Past Master symbol commonly consists of the compass, sun, and quadrant, and in some jurisdictions, a square. What do the components of the jewel symbolize?

The Compass is symbolically used to circumscribe desires and keep passions in check. It is by the compass that a Mason is reminded to keep his actions within due bounds.

The Square is an emblem of virtue. In “acting on the square” a Mason conducts himself honestly, with morality and integrity. The square is the Master jewel and is a part of the Past Masters symbol as a reminder of the office he held.

The Quadrant is the arc that the compass rests upon. As every Mason uses the compass to keep his actions within due bounds, it is the quadrant that measures those bounds. It is the responsibility of the Master of the Lodge to ensure that Masons under his jurisdiction are making proper use of their own compass. The quadrant also shows the compass to be opened to 60 degrees or the angle of an equilateral triangle, which is a symbol of balance.

The Sun represents light, and the Master of a lodge is a source of Masonic Light. It also signifies that the Past Master has observed the sun at meridian height (the South), setting (the West), and rising (the East).