Preserving Our Legacy: Past Master Jewels

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Jim Stapleton

After a Worshipful Master has served their Lodge and a qualified successor has been installed in their place, the Brother becomes the Lodge’s new junior Past Master. Even though Past Masters don’t have the same authority as Worshipful Masters, Past Masters continue to have a special role in their Lodges. They help to advise the Worshipful Master. The wise counsel whispered by a Past Master is immensely important. They also often serve on various Lodge committees and fill Trustee roles. Past Masters are called upon to head up committees of investigation and help to guard the West Gate. A dedicated cadre of Past Masters is truly necessary for a Lodge to function.

In many jurisdictions, an outgoing Master is presented with a Past Master jewel. This is a way for the Brethren to demonstrate their appreciation and acknowledge the work performed by the Past Master. These jewels are often beautifully ornate pieces. Past Master jewels might be made of a variety of materials, but a number of them are made of gold or silver. Sometimes they are even embellished with precious gemstones. The name of the Brother and the year(s) during which they served as Master are frequently engraved on the back of the medal. Regardless of the jewel’s intrinsic worth or value, it surely has deep sentimental meaning for the Brother.

In my Lodge, as well as many others, the Past Master jewel is technically on loan to the Brother. The idea is that the jewel stays in the Past Master’s possession while they are alive. However, when the Brother is called from Labor and goes to the Lodge on High, the jewel should be returned to the Lodge. These valuable objects can then be cleaned and restored so that they can be presented to a future Past Master. Engraving on the back of the jewel gets updated to show which individuals were entrusted with it, along with the years they served as Master. This is a way to preserve a lodge’s financial resources because it isn’t necessary to constantly buy new jewels every year. More importantly, it is a physical manifestation of the interconnectedness of the Lodge’s previous Past Masters.

This is why it breaks my heart to scroll through online sites that sell used Past Master jewels. Recently, a Brother pointed out that a Past Master jewel from one of the Lodges that merged to form my Lodge was up for sale on a popular bidding site. The antique dealer that was selling the jewel wanted a small fortune. It felt like the medal was being held, hostage! I emailed the seller to say that it was a piece of Lodge history and that those jewels are actually the property of their Lodges. Sadly, (but not surprisingly) I never received a response.

Past Masters that belong to Lodges that refurbish the jewels should make it clear to their families that the jewels are to be returned to the Lodge after their passing. Family members that don’t know of this custom cannot be expected to know any better. Brothers can even add the wish to have the jewel returned to the Lodge in their wills. That way, their loved ones can ensure that these pieces of history are brought back to the Lodge to live on for future Masonic generations.

As Masons, we are stewards of our Lodge resources and have a responsibility to our future members. What we have in Freemasonry today is because we had fraternal ancestors that worked to build for the future. In the same manner, we need to do what we can to ensure that future generations can also enjoy the Fraternity and appreciate the historical connections to past Brethren.


Jim Stapleton is the Senior Warden of USS New Jersey Lodge No. 62. He is also a member of the New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786. Jim received the Distinguished White Apron Award from the Grand Lodge of New Jersey. He was awarded the Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award. Jim is also a member of the Society of King Solomon.

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