Deep within the stony facade of Freemasonry’s head office can be found the largest public display Masonic badges to have been staged in the UK.

Many of us wear badges, whether to indicate support for a cause, a political action, or just to express a personal fandom for a musician or venue — and masons are no different.

They wear badges as well, but being masons, their badges are more bling than the average, and look more like impressive medals than the plastic buttons you pick up at a pop concert.

But the thinking behind them is the same – to show solidarity with other people wearing the same badge.

Despite their glistening appearance, most are made of humble metals and enamels, but some on show has incorporated fragments of other objects as well, such as a piece of Cleopatra’s Needle or stone from Jerusalem.

As Lodges got richer, some showed off by out-blinging the other Lodges, but in 1910, the Grand Lodge laid down some rules that reined in the more extravagant excesses.

It’s an exhibition that would not look out of place in a military setting – lots of round medallions on ribbons, but here for freemasonry rather than soldiery.

Not just English Freemasons either, as there are examples from the former Yugoslavia, Iran and Egypt. Elsewhere some show how Freemasons strove to wear their badges under the most difficult of conditions – such as the jewel made from the remains of a bus during WW2 by prisoners of war in Singapore.

But also look for the Black Cat, and its mysterious inscription A.O.M., which no one has yet managed to decipher.

The exhibition, Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity is open until August 2019 and entry is free.

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry is open Monday to Saturday 10am until 5pm, and is just around the corner from Covent Garden.

The exhibition is housed in the museum, which is also free to visit, and while, of a certain taste, is certainly worth a visit to see aspects of Freemasonry rarely seen outside the Lodges themselves.

While you’re there, they also offer free tours of the Grand Temple, on the hour from 11am-4pm. Just ask at reception, although tours are not always possible on Saturdays.

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5 comments on “Freemasonry’s bling goes on display
  1. Anthony says:

    It seems that the Freemasons are attempting to deflect the criticism they have been receiving as the public become more aware of their involvement in influencing decisions,outcomes and rulings in both legal,governmental and commercial areas that they should not as a group have any involvement in.
    I learned from a family member that no matter what educational background or qualifications, they will be unable to become a Barrister unless they are admitted into a lodge. This is a disgrace.

    • ianvisits says:

      Freemasons Hall has been open to the public for at least a couple of decades, if not more — and I can say from personal experience that it’s not mandatory to be a Freemason if you want to be a Barrister. That’s a profession with enough barriers to entry as it is without more being added.

    • Matt says:

      This comment is a perfect example of hearsay and exactly the type of idiocy what modern day Freemasons have to put up with. If you want to know the truth educate yourself and go talk to a Freemason or get involved in a lodge. You’ll soon realise that all the gossip is nonsense.

  2. Peter Farrell says:

    I have been a freemason for over 20 years. I can affirm that within my Lodge, there are many members from all walks of life and differing religions and I have never..ever witnessed any kind of bias or deferential behaviour within my Lodge.. I have read a lot of items regarding freemasonry in the media, this is the first time I have shared my opinion. Firstly, Freemasonry is not a secret society; it is society with secrets, much the same as a board of directors within a company. The only secrets masons retain and never , or should not divulge, are certain words and or signs only known to freemasons as a guard to persecution from those who do not regard Masons as free Men.

  3. NormanC says:

    Anthony, I think you and/or your relative are confusing Masonic lodges, membership of which is in no way necessary for any profession or career, and Inns of Court, membership of which is essential for would-be barristers.

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