Oh sure, it's a beautiful ring now, but you should have seen it the first time I did.
My Dad is an antique collector/dealer and ran across this old Masonic ring. He wanted me to have a look at it (Dad is the source of most of my Masonic "treasures"), so the man who was selling it let him borrow it, and he brought it by for me to look at. The ring was a mess. Whoever originally owned it wore it a lot. That was pretty obvious since it had gotten so thin and brittle with constant wear, that it had broken into three pieces and was barely recognizable as a Masonic ring. It was just a little plastic bag full of broken pieces of an old ring. I wasn't impressed, and certainly wasn't interested in buying it. It wasn't worth much more in my opinion than the gold in it. Probably a nice ring in its time, but I thought its time had come for the melting pot.
Several months later, guess what I got for my birthday? I got an "I told you so" gift. My Dad didn't give up on that old ring. He knows a very good jeweler, and had him look at it. That jeweler was able to rebuild it, repair it, and polish away all the scratches. I couldn't believe it was the same ring! It went from being an ugly piece of junk I had no interest in at all, to being my favorite ring. It's still very delicate because it's been worn so thin, but I wear it for special occasions--like when I was installed as Master of my Lodge.
That's a pretty good story in itself, but the best part of the story is what the jeweler discovered when he was working on it. The ring had a secret! On one side of the ring, you can see where originally it had a few familiar working tools--a level, maybe what was once an acacia branch. You really have to look closely, because most of the original engraving has been worn smooth over time. The theme is similar, and easier to make out on the other side because more of the detail survived. There is clearly a trowel, and under it, an apron. Nothing unusual about that.
|Little secret hidden under a concealed flap|
However, when the jeweler was polishing it, he noticed something odd about that apron, and had a closer look at it. He discovered a tiny hinge on top, and upon further inspection, a tiny clasp below. The apron opens! Under the flap, on the lid was engraved the name of the Lodge the man belonged to. And below that, the dates the man was Entered, Passed, and Raised a Master Mason. The engraving is so tiny, it's barely legible to the naked eye. Under a magnifying glass, you can see that the man was Entered in 1939 and raised in 1940. But he wasn't the first man to own that ring.
Those dates that are legible now were engraved over older dates. The man who was raised in 1940 had a jeweler buff out the original dates and engrave over the original dates. You can no longer see what those dates were, but it obvious this ring has been around for a long time, and at least two Masons wore it and had it customized.
I've never looked at another "treasure" by Dad brings by in the same way again. I know that sometimes, what looks like junk in a little plastic bag, can actually be something pretty remarkable. First impressions can be decieving.