Early Past Masters Jewel dtd 1775

This early Past Masters Jewel is made of coin silver and dated 1775.  It  was presented by ExDona Lodge No 169 to Arch Cunningham, Their P Master - 1775 - As A Token Of Affection.


Early Past Masters Jewel dtd 1854

This early Past Masters Jewel is also made of coin silver and dated 1854.  It  was presented Mount Moriah Lodge No. 37 to W.P.M.B. - T.J. Parker as a testimony of their respect for him of his services while Master A.D. 1854 - A.L. 5854

The Meaning and History of the Jewels and Symbols of a Past Master

Written By:

Carl W. Davis – 2005 Worshipful Master – Peru-Miami Lodge #67

Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Indiana, USA

As Freemasons we are quite aware of the powerful nature of symbols. From our first

preparations to enter the Fraternity, we have been taught through symbolism. We have

found meaning and comfort in symbols. And have, if we are true to our charges, striven

to improve our character by their teachings, as we travel toward the rising sun, in the

footsteps of the Widow’s Son. This essay will explore the meaning and historical usage

of the specific symbols used to represent a Past Master of a Craft Lodge.

47th Prop. Of Euclid Suspended by a Square

From a current global perspective, the most widely used Past Master’s symbol consists of

the 47th Proposition of Euclid suspended from a Square. The 47th proposition of Euclid

has been used in Masonic symbolism at least as early as 1735 when it was published in

Smith’s Pocket Companion. However, no evidence can be found that it was used

specifically as a Past Master’s symbol until the year 1815 when the first Book of

Constitutions of the United Grand Lodge of England was published, and the prescription

for a Past Master’s Jewel consisting of “The square and diagram of the 47th prop. 1st B

of Euclid, engraved on a silver plate pendent within it.” was codified.i

In order to understand why this symbol was chosen to represent the office of Past Master,

we must first look at the meaning of The 47th proposition of Euclid. This proposition

teaches one of the most important principles of geometry, known to us as the

Pythagorean Theorem, which is communicated by the formula “A2 + B2 = C2” when

working with a Right Triangle where “C” represents the hypotenuse. We are also taught

that whenever a triangle has a side length ratio of Three, Four and Five, the triangle will

be a right triangle.  ii

Pythagorean’s Theorem is appropriate for the Past Master because it teaches us that when

working with Right Triangles (a reference to the Master’s Square), the square of the

hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the square of the other two sides as shown in figure 1. iii

This symbol is suspended from a Square, to show that the Past Master has learned how to

make complex constructions from the simple angle of ninety degrees. This is symbolic of

the knowledge and wisdom that a Craft Lodge Past Master has gained from his service to

the Craft. This Past Master’s Jewel is illustrated in Figure 2. This jewel has changed

aesthetically over time. Originally, the square was hung so that one arm was

perpendicular to the ground, and the other parallel to it.

Even in many of the jurisdictions that do not use the 47th Proposition of Euclid in their

Past Master’s jewel, this proposition is referenced in the lectures of their rituals. It is

important to note however, that any claim that Pythagoras was a Freemason, or that he

shouted “I have Found it” and slaughtered cattle upon his discovery of this equation, are

best understood as apocryphal ledged, and not as historical fact. It is also important to

know, that while Western culture credits Pythagoras with this discovery, historians tell us

that the Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians had understood and utilized this equation at

much earlier dates.iv

Also of interest to note is the use of the 3, 4, 5 length ratio of a Right Triangle in some

jurisdictions. In those ritual traditions, a candidate will traverse the lodge three times as

an Entered Apprentice, four times as a Fellow Craft, and five times as a Master Mason,

thus “forming a Square” by the time he is Raised.

It is clear that there is much to be learned from the symbolism of this Past Master’s


The Compass, Square, Sun and Quadrant

The oldest known Past Master’s Symbol consists of the Compass, Sun, Square and

Quadrant. This is the most popular Past Master’s Jewel used in the United States.

The earliest written evidence that a Past Master’s jewel in this form was used can be

found in an exposé of Masonry published in April of 1760 entitled Three Distinct Knocks

which said “The Pass Master Hath the Compasses and Sun with a Line of Cords About

his Neck.”v

This symbol includes the Square to remind us that it is by the Square that the wearer

governed his lodge as Master. The Quadrant shows what angle the Compass is opened at.

This is appropriate for the symbol of a Past Master, because it is by the Compass that the

Freemason keeps himself within due bounds of all mankind. And, it is the role of the

Worshipful Master to ensure that all members of his lodge, and all Regular Masons living

within his lodge’s jurisdiction are making proper use of their moral compass. It also

generally shows that the Compass is opened to the angle of 60 degrees. This is significant

because 60 degrees is the angle of an equilateral triangle. The equilateral triangle

represents perfect balance, as all sides are of equal length, and the triangle appears the

same from all directions. It therefore teaches that the man who wears this jewel has

learned the lessons of Freemasonry, and lives a balanced life. It also shows that the

wearer of this jewel has served equally in the South, the West, and the East.

The Sun is used in this symbol to represent that the wearer has observed the sun at , 1. its

meridian height in the South, 2.its setting in the West, and 3.its rising in the East.

The Sun also represents light. And, it is understood that the Past Master of a Craft Lodge

is a source of Masonic Light to his brothers. It closely shares the meaning of the

Pentalpha in Masonic symbolism and has on occasion been interchanged with it. Thus it

is also appropriate to say that the Sun represents perfect light.vi

It is of interest to note that the Grand Lodge of Scotland uses this symbol as their Past

Master’s Jewel, without the Sun.

The Compass, Sun and Quadrant

In several jurisdictions, especially in the United States, the Past Master’s Symbol consists

of the Compass, Sun and Quadrant. The meaning of the Compass, and Sun are the same

as in the symbol described above. However, this symbol is unique, as it can also be

understood to be a sextant.

A sextant is a tool of navigation, used to measure altitude, and enable one to determine

his location, and thus plot a course to travel. This is a very appropriate symbol for a Past

Master, as he has had to navigate the course of his lodge during his Eastern tenure. It also

shows that he is capable of assisting in the navigation of the lodge, if his successors may

request his assistance. vii

The Compass, Square and Letter “G”

Perhaps the most unique Past Master’s symbol is found in Ireland. The Irish Past

Master’s symbol consists of the Compass, Square, and Letter “G” in the center.

This is in fact the same symbol used to represent Freemasonry in general, in the United

States and other places.

To most of the world, this symbol shows the Compass, the Square and a letter which

represents “God”, “Geometry”, “Grand Architect of The Universe”, or perhaps the

Volume of Sacred Law.

In Ireland, however, the letter “G” is not used to represent any of those things. It is

represented in the lodge room, above the Master’s Chair. It is also represented in the

jewel of a Past Master. This is because to the Irish Master, the letter “G” serves to

remind him of a word that is very special to him, and all other Installed Masters alone.viii

i To Talk of Many Things by Most Worshipful Brother David C. Bradley

ii Spirit of Masonry in Moral and Elucidatory Lectures Wm. Hutchinson. London: J. Wilke, 1775.

iii The 47th Proposition of the 1st Book of Euclid as part of the Jewel of a Past Master by: Brother Thomas


iv Euclid’s Elements, Book I, Proposition 47 D.E.Joyce, Clark University 1996

v To Talk of Many Things by Most Worshipful Brother David C. Bradley


H. R. A. Grand Chapter Register ("Ancients")Lau. Derrnott C.F. Kell, Litho, 8, Furnival St Holborn, E.C

vii The Instructive Tongue by: Bro. Louis F. Bandell, Jr., P.M., W.M. 2003.

viii The Letter G by Bro. Mark Dwor





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