A feast for eyes and mind
From the homemade to the exquisite, this is the history of Freemasonry made vividly alive
Nothing draws together the many facets of Freemasonry as well as the masonic jewel. The current exhibition at the Library and Museum at Great Queen Street illustrates three centuries of the Craft through its outstanding collection of jewels and reminds us how much lies behind each one of them, with their fascinating stories being told in detail.
There is everything from simple jewels handmade by prisoners of war to glorious pieces crafted in gold for Grand Masters. It exemplifies every aspect of masonic history and how Freemasonry became – and remains – crucial to the countries which formed the British Empire.
As well as lodge jewels from around the world, there are charity and consecration jewels, as well as those made for Past Masters and founders and many other artefacts. Some are exquisitely hand-painted or enamelled and are complemented by excellent accompanying notes.
The exhibition has rare items of masonic history, from Elias Ashmole, through the merger of the Antients and Moderns, to modern jewels. It is astonishing to see the initiate’s apron worn by the Prince of Wales in 1919, an improvised apron worn at the Siege of Ladysmith and Sir Winston Churchill’s apron.
For Freemasons, this exhibition illustrates the remarkable depth and range of the Craft, while for the non-mason it helps to connect three centuries of British history and explains the significance of Freemasonry with remarkable clarity. It would, if it were possible, make for a wonderful permanent exhibition.
Review by Richard Jaffa
Bejewelled: Badges, Brotherhood and Identity, at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, until 24 August 2019, free admission