Precious Metal Weight: Approximately 3.86 dwt, inclusive of all elements present
Precious Metal Material: The interior is stamped for 9k gold, though our digital shop equipment places the gold content a bit higher at 10-11k gold. The two suspended charms inside do not test as gold, and appear to be silver with a gold wash. Likewise, the exterior appears to exhibit the remnants of a former bright yellow gold wash that once covered the exterior of this rosy gold sphere/orb. Today, this wash is mostly worn away, but it can be detected with the eye with examination. Historically, lower karat gold (and often silver) jewelry was commonly finished with a high karat gold wash to give the appearance of higher purity gold. Such a treatment ensured that jewelry could be produced en masse, and could also remain affordable and attainable by most social classes.
Dimensions: This piece measures about 33.55 mm top to bottom when closed, including the top bail loop. The suspended charm-drop adds another 33.00 mm length when opened. This means that when opened with the interior charms suspended, this fob pendant measures 66.55 mm TOTAL length, from the top of the bail loop to base of the second charm. The top bail loop has an interior diameter opening of about 4 mm.
Weight: A very impressive 6.00 grams
Markings: The interior of the sphere/orb features a dimensional star on which a stamped "No. 31472 PATENT 9CT" may be found.
Era: The interior stamps found on the star specifically denote that it is from the United Kingdom and dates to the year 1885, during the height of the mid to late Victorian period.
Buyer Notes: Prospective buyers, please note that there are only two other fobs exactly like this one available on the open market at the time of listing: one has retained all four of its original internal charms, and one has not retained any of its original internal charms and is now empty. As there are only three of these unique Masonic fobs within available circulation today, they are considered shockingly rare and difficult to find. Unlike these three fobs which open to reveal a series of suspended charms, the sweeping majority of Masonic orb fobs on the market open and unfold into cross or pyramidal forms. All such Masonic jewelry is sought after for collectibility and the intrigue surrounding the secrets of the Freemasons, but it is certainly worth noting the distinction between this style fob and the thousands of other fobs available for sale.
A wonderfully mysterious jewel with loads of history to boot, this Masonic orb was originally designed as a fob for use as an accessory to a pocket watch. Today, fobs remain much beloved as charming pendants, and while their function has changed over the decades, their special symbolism transcends fashion, time and transformation.
This jewel is specifically associated with the Freemasons, a fraternal organization that has roots in the Medieval period, and is believed to be the oldest fraternal organization in the world. Britannica editor Brian Duignan (2021) notes that "Freemasonry evolved from the guilds of stonemasons and cathedral builders of the Middle Ages. With the decline of cathedral building, some lodges of operative (working) masons began to accept honorary members to bolster their declining membership. From a few of these lodges developed modern symbolic or speculative Freemasonry, which particularly in the 17th and 18th centuries adopted the rites and trappings of ancient religious orders and of chivalric brotherhoods. In 1717 the first Grand Lodge, an association of lodges, was founded in England." Because the organization was founded during the Enlightenment, it still works to instill core values of the Enlightenment movement, such as an intrinsic thirst for knowledge infused with religious tolerance, and a philanthropic drive toward community betterment and sociability. As such, the masonic tradition teaches morality and lawfulness, encourages charitable efforts, and offers something of a social aspect to its members.
Freemasonry is not technically a secret society in nature, though the undisclosed passwords, handshakes and rituals of the organization seem to veil its qualities, beliefs and functions to non-members. These mysterious attributes of the fraternity are derivatives of the historic levels of authority of stonemasonry, including Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Masons. Today, however, these rungs are more like philosophical degrees. The Freemasons are advocates for symbolism just as much as industriousness and charity, and perhaps no better proof exists than the extensive history of Freemason accessories, garb, decorative arts and wares, lodge design and jewelry. This fob is no exception, and boasts loads of meaning that reach beyond visual aesthetics, beginning with this fob's ability to open and reveal more inside than meets the eye when worn. This piece originally included two more charms linked to the two still intact inside. Though these have now been lost to time, research revealed what these third and fourth charms depicted and meant, as outlined below:
1. The orb (exterior/hollowed outer form): This form is also used on the most common variants of Masonic orb jewelry, which are called Golden Globes or Masonic Balls and unfold to the shape of the Latin cross or a five-pointed star. The spherical shape is a cosmological symbol of the earth, and in this context, reminds the wearer that their earthly home cannot fetter their spirit. The earthen shape also speaks to the merging of divinity and science to create the universe and understand humanity's place within it.
2. The five-pointed star (interior with patent number): This form is said to have multiple meanings to different iterations of Freemasonry. The following are a selection of representations that this star shape offers:
→ As Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, law was appointed divinely and Moses, as a leader, encountered God’s divine touch.
→ The Star of Bethlehem was sent by God as a beacon to guide the Wise Men to the newborn Savior.
→ In relative association with the Judaic tradition, this shape represents the Sacred Name of God, "Yahweh" (יהוה), which is believed to be too holy to say aloud and too ineffable spell in full.
→ The celestial emblem emphasizes spiritual progress toward God, the Author of Redemption.
→ The star symbolically represents the concept of Divine Providence, which is defined as God’s compassionate intervention in the universe and life. This belief expresses that God's very presence is, itself, miraculous, and therefore evokes miracles to take place and perpetuate so as to point to His orchestrating and creative hand in all areas of life.
3. The two pillars, both mounted with an orb: Linked to the scriptural story of the building of Solomon's Temple, the pillars represent the bronze pillars of Jachin (conveying dependence and stability) and Boaz (conveying strength and durability) which stood at the vestibule entrance to Solomon's temple, according to 1 Kings 7:21. Interestingly, the Biblical passage notes that the left pillar is that of Boaz and the right is that of Jachin-- yet this piece portrays it in reverse, implying that the wearer's view is from inside the holy temple rather than on the outside looking in. In this way, the charm implies the wearer is worthy of the most sacred space. The purpose of the two pillars is only divulged when understood together as a pair (much like the concept of Yin and Yang), wherein they unify to establish a balanced order. Perched on their capital-less tops are two orbs, historically referencing bowls: a bowl of fire speaks to the divine man (Jachin) and a bowl of water speaks to the earthly man (Boaz). When metaphorically combined, the effect is a neutralized and balanced being, signifying the idealest of states.
4. The central eye connecting the pillars: The "All-Seeing Eye" belongs to God, omnipresent and omnipotent, aware of all that is seen and unseen by man.
5. The sun's rays beaming from the bottom of the eye: Most simply, the radiating rays extending from the eye of God offer his miraculous touch the new growth below. These rays bless new beginnings with prosperity and longevity. Others perceive their presence as indicative of the Master of the Lodge, who has ceremonial placement on the east side of the lodge, which is the direction from which the sun dawns.
6. The crossed stoneman's tools between the pillars: Being that the origin trade of the fraternity was stonemasonry, the trowel's presence in the tableau is expected. Trowels are used to apply mortar, which acts as a glue, and thus represents how the affection between members is the binder of the organization. The second tool shown is a gavel, which is a symbol of authority. Its mirrored opposition to the trowel equates their value to the greater shared cause of the Freemasons. As well, the gavel recalls the stonemason tool called a brick hammer, which is used alongside a chisel to sculpt; just as a brick hammer is the mason's striking tool to improve the block before him, so too is the gavel a metaphor for pruning character toward spiritual rectitude.
7. The centermost plant growing between the stonemason's tools and reaching toward the rays above: Oaks have a long history of symbolism spanning many thousands of years, cultures and people. Oaks symbolize universal authority and leadership, endurance, strength, prosperity and survival, might, and ancient and interconnected wisdom. The oak leaf is associated with such the best of virtue and honor, hospitality, and eternal liberty. In Victorian jewelry, the image of a leafy branch and acorn were popular motifs for sentimental pieces, which were designed to revere another in both life and death. Here, its presence indicates nascence of life, fresh starts and a willingness to unfurl toward God and grow in deeper connection alongside fellow members toward truth.
8. The overhand knotted rope connecting the pillars' bases: Knots in jewelry symbolize the union of partners, and the security of such a bond. The further the two ends are pulled apart (by time, distance, etc.), the tighter the knot becomes, thus strengthening the connection. Here, the knot between the pillars plays a very similar role, indicating that no matter what tries to thrust itself as a wedge between the pillars, the pair's strength-- and will-- only increase. Effectively, the Freemasons' drive is steady, and amplifies in adversity.
9. The square and compass:The square references the need for every member to "square" (or justify) their actions, ensuring that every member is mindful of their decision-making inside and outside of the organization. Correspondingly, the compass references the reach with which members are trusted to judiciously act within the careful confines of moral living. While members are encouraged to dive into their passions, they are meant to do so within moral means.
10. The upside-down five-pointed star: This symbol being oriented upside-down conveys an intent to ward off negative spirits and ill will, while the star itself represents the five points of fellowship as defined within the Freemasonry texts, with respect to the character and fellowship of the members. Each point has a corresponding insignia and merit of fellowship:
→ Foot - reflecting service and meeting needs
→ Knee - reflecting prayer
→ Heart - reflecting trust
→ Hand - reflecting character support
→ Ear - with whisper reflecting wise counsel
11. The skull and crossbones: Foremost, this symbol correlates to the philosophy of Memento Mori, which teaches to remember that death is inescapable. Rather than fearing the certainty of death, members are encouraged to see it as a motivating factor toward accomplishing goals as both men and members of the fellowship. The symbol is confrontational and relatively antagonistic, but forces inner reflection in preparation for life as a Freemason. More literally, this symbol was used ritualistically in the Chamber of Reflection, wherein newer member-candidates were forced to ponder their purpose and intent. What ensued was a weeding out of candidates unprepared for the realities of membership. While daunting, the skull and crossbones reminds the wearer to live each day as if its their last, to live morally and enthusiastically, knowing the reward of heaven and perpetuation and sanctification of the soul is awaiting every person.