Recently, we were presented with the challenge of finding a replacement amber glass for a customer’s USA Sergeant Major Academy ring. It is an honor to work on pieces of such significance and it had to be just right.
Of course, all jewelry has significance for the individual wearing it, but fraternal rings are of special interest in the history of personal ornamentation.
In a sense, wedding bands, promise rings and engagement rings all represent a form of allegiance. Fraternal rings stand apart in that they mark allegiance to a group rather than to one individual. However, both types or rings are profoundly linked to tradition and to a rite of passage.
Fraternal rings represent a wide range of personal accomplishments and allegiances. The Freemason ring is among the first styles to come to mind. Graduate students are familiar with class rings, athletes wear award and championship rings, clansmen wear the emblems of their clans, and let’s not forget career or profession rings, proudly adorned by military men and women, doctors, lawyers and engineers, to name a few. They mark a journey; a lifetime accomplishment.
Fraternal rings are by no means limited to specific careers or accomplishments. They are a centuries old tradition, one that evolved with our sense of personal growth. They are a variation on the theme that finds its roots in the ancient wise elder’s personal ornaments; even the pharaoh’s specially designed jewels. They are a sign of distinction at any age, typically beginning with the high school ring.
While the word “fraternal” finds its roots in the masculine word for “brother,” we all recognize that fraternal rings have their place in the lives and on the hands of women and men equally.
“Fraternal” refers to a society of men or women united for mutual aid or benefit. And today, more than ever, the fraternal ring continues its transformation as more and more people take it upon themselves to create their own designs, imbued with meaning that remains deeply rooted in tradition, while adding elements of a more personal nature.
After all, this is precisely how this type of jewelry has evolved, for while the fraternal ring typically appears in a set, traditional design, let us not forget that this always begins in someone’s imagination, when individuals who share a common path seek to translate the highlights and meaning of their journey into form.
If you designed your own fraternal or rite of passage ring, what would it look like?