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Symbols of defiance and rank, an insight into Freemasons’ jewels

The Freemasons Medal made for King Edward VII  at the Museum of Freemasonry's forthcoming exhibition in London of masonic jewels, Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity, the UK's first major exhibition of masonic jewels. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire
The Freemasons Medal made for King Edward VII at the Museum of Freemasonry's forthcoming exhibition in London of masonic jewels, Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity, the UK's first major exhibition of masonic jewels. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire
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THEY were a sign of defiance in Prisoner of War camps, crudely made from bits of bone, scraps of food, and straw. Others were glittering works of art fit for a king.

Now more than 150 stunning examples of masonic badges - referred to as jewels - are going on display together in London for the first time.

The miniature Freemasons Medals of Harry Blaydon at the Museum of Freemasonry's forthcoming exhibition in London of masonic jewels, Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity, the UK's first major exhibition of masonic jewels. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

The miniature Freemasons Medals of Harry Blaydon at the Museum of Freemasonry's forthcoming exhibition in London of masonic jewels, Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity, the UK's first major exhibition of masonic jewels. Picture: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry sheds light on the long and celebrated tradition of masonic jewels.

By wearing ‘jewels’ masons connect with one another and reveal something about themselves.

Packed full of symbols and hidden meanings, each jewel has its own story.

Museum curator Mark Dennis told the Yorkshire Post: “When Freemasons wear jewels, its about showing who they are and their rank.

“The tradition goes back to the early 1700s in Florence. They were not created to be worn at first, but people soon began to pin them to their clothes.

“There are examples of lodges who created and wore them at Prisoner of War camps, in Singapore during the Second World War, when they were worn as an act of defiance; and even in the Napoleonic Wars, when Masons’ badges were made from materials including bones, food and straw.

“The exhibition also shows the glittering side, including some of Edward II’s jewels, which are quite different.

“Jewels are not just beautiful and made to be worn, but to show the people around them who they are.”

Other examples in the collection include pieces from around the world, including an Egyptian-inspired Authors’ Lodge jewel and a Barraclough Plate jewel.

The exhibition, the largest public display ever staged in the UK, runs at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, at Freemasons’ Hall, London, from tomorrow until August 24, 2019.