Big Onyx Man Ring: Secret Meaning? Where to get one?
October 23, 2007 11:02 PM   Subscribe

Big Onyx Man Ring: Secret Meaning? Where to get one?

I know this is a completely weird question, but here goes.

I've known at least two guys in the past who I've admired, and who had nearly identical man rings. They were not acquainted that I know of. It's possible they met briefly once or twice.

The rings were a fairly common style, but I got the impression from both men that the rings had some kind of special meaning. Here's the rub; this ring (which I'll describe below) is a popular style for Masonic rings, but these rings did not bear Masonic insignia, and I'm 92% certain that neither of the men were Masons.

Ring style: Plain gold, with a big, square (or rectangular), black onyx on the top, with a small diamond in the middle of the onyx.

Similar ring 1: (But take off the diamonds on the sides and the compass and square, add a small diamond at center-onyx.)

Similar ring 2: (But onyx covers entire face of ring, no diamonds on sides, and smaller diamond in the middle without a gold frame.)

The two questions:

1. Some kind of fraternal order? (Very) Closeted Masons? My brain's coincidence circuitry throwing an error? Possible clue: Both men were LDS. I'm also LDS, and I know the culture inside and out, and they are not CTR rings. The LDS angle seems to be a dead end, They were both VERY religious, and that seems to be the most likely commonality.

2. I liked these rings, and I want one. The diamonds need not be real, and I'd like to pay less than $50. Extensive Googling and Yahooing have not yielded an exact match. The photos above are from Amazon and Wal-Mart online. I'd also rather not have it custom made. Anyone with better Google-fu for this?

Hey, I found the third one! Looks like the diamond is framed in gold in this one.

One last thing: It's not a question about religion or politics. Please, let's not go there.
posted by SlyBevel to Society & Culture (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: In case it comes up, they're also not even remotely similar to Joseph Smith eternity rings.
posted by SlyBevel at 11:07 PM on October 23, 2007

The first ring is Mason and I am pretty sure the second and third are from the senior priestly class of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which is called the Melchizedek Priesthood.
posted by parmanparman at 11:09 PM on October 23, 2007

Response by poster: Ok, I know all about the Melchizedek Priesthood, but I've never heard of an associated ring.

parmanparman, you have anything to back this up?
posted by SlyBevel at 11:12 PM on October 23, 2007

Giles had one. I'm not sure that's helpful at all though, sorry.
posted by cmyk at 11:24 PM on October 23, 2007

My dad has a ring precisely matching your description: it never occurred to me that it symbolized something but then again, I never thought to ask. Adding to your possible clues: my dad is Roman Catholic, life-time Air Force, WWII vet, lifetime NRA. He might have belonged to a fraternal order at one point but I don't recall him attending any meetings during the years I lived at home. Of the above affiliations, he would most likely wear something associated with R.C or the USAF.

I'll call him tomorrow and ask (he's already asleep now or otherwise I'd call now).
posted by jamaro at 11:28 PM on October 23, 2007

Response by poster: The World Famous: No, no, no, no, no.

My thought exactly. But if parman x 2 has a ref, I'd like to see it.
posted by SlyBevel at 11:34 PM on October 23, 2007

There is an elderly gay couple who catch my train who each have one. This is in Australia, so the chances of them being involved with the LDS is pretty low.
I have noticed them on other gentlemen, but never on a young guy, so it may well be they are linked to some fraternal order as demographics skew that way.
Ebay buying guide contributed by a user suggests no particular mystery:
A popular Agate is known as Onyx. Onyx is black and white banded chalcedony. Popular in Men's jewelry styles, onyx can also be worm by women. Black onyx rings worn by men are a classic jewelry essential."
posted by bystander at 3:25 AM on October 24, 2007

Jeweler here. Ring #1 is a Masonic ring. Rings #2 and #3 are very popular men's ring styles that have no meaning that I am aware of. The style is common in many jewelry supplier catalogues.

Onyx has been a traditional stone in men's jewelry for centuries. It was the stone used by Roman warriors to carve the heads of gods (it a soft stone that's easy to carve) and wear into battle. Onyx and hematite were thought to confer power and invincibility in war.

The diamond in the center is a way for men to wear diamonds without looking too feminine.
posted by Flakypastry at 4:56 AM on October 24, 2007

Sorry, to answer your sourcing question: For $50, you're talking about sterling silver and cubic zirconia. I would search online retailers that specialize in silver jewelry. Or, you could search ebay for something like this . Just make sure that you buy the ring in your size. Onyx cannot take the heat of a torch, and the inset stone will not survive a change in ring geometry.
posted by Flakypastry at 5:16 AM on October 24, 2007

I once met an antique dealer in my hometown who wore a large onyx ring.

Here's my theory: Men's fashion tends to be less about intricate detail and more about bold statements of masculinity. A big onyx ring totally fits that bill - it isn't too ornate while still being decorative. The trend in men's rings led fraternal orders and other men's associations to look for an appropriate style of ring to use for their group, and onyx rings seemed the most appropriate. They are bold and can be decorated slightly to show some association without becoming too unnecessarily showy (and thus losing their masculine appeal).

But that's just my theory.
posted by greekphilosophy at 6:00 AM on October 24, 2007

It's just a classic ring style for men.
posted by desuetude at 6:09 AM on October 24, 2007

My dad has a very similar ring that he was given in appreciation of X number of years at his company (this was years before he retired). His high school class ring is also very similar to that last one you linked to, though much smaller.
posted by cooker girl at 7:37 AM on October 24, 2007

I've seen this type of ring in jewelry wholesale catalogs, which often identify "special" types of jewelry. I've not seen any explanation next to these men's rings.

The rings might have a special meaning to these men because of how they received them. This is probably the most common special meaning for jewelry. Engagement and wedding rings would be a good example of this.
posted by yohko at 7:48 AM on October 24, 2007

My dad (81) gave me a couple of rings that he wore in his 20's and 30's that meet your description. They're gold rings with square onyx inlays. One has a single diamond and the other has a single diamond within the onyx and several other stones at the side. I believe it also has a carving of a centurion on the onyx.

If I remember I will take pictures when I get home.

They didn't have any special significance other than it was part of the affectation he wore at the time. A 20 year old with the means now dresses up in vintage clothes and hipster frames if they're part of that culture. In my fathers era that was the hipster attire: pin stripe suits, fedoras and rings.
posted by substrate at 8:17 AM on October 24, 2007

My grandfather had one of these, as did my uncle. They were both Roman Catholic. Although my grandfather was also (?) a Rosicrucian.
posted by media_itoku at 8:19 AM on October 24, 2007

Response by poster: Ok, a couple of things:

1: I'm aware that the ring in the first photo is Masonic. That's why the question states that the rings I've seen have no Masonic insignia like this one does. No G, compass, or square.

2. Looks like the answers are skewing toward fashion statement. That's totally cool, and it's what the logic part of my brain has been saying. The kooky side still wants it to be a high priestly statement of affiliation. Because that would be cool.

3. The third picture above is Gordon B. Hinckley, the President of the LDS church. His wearing the ring, along with two other priestly LDS dudes, is what makes me suspect the ring as statement of affiliation. But again, could just be a manly fashion statement.

4. Thanks, FlakyPastry, for the Ebay link. I thought I had turned Ebay upside-down, but you found it and I didn't. Also, I guess I could spend more like $100. Does that change the outlook?

5. The citations above of Roman Catholics, and especially Rosicrucians, really piques my interest. But it could just be so much more synchronicity.

Thanks for all the answers! If someone has a lead on a really good deal on one of these, I'm interested.

And parmanparman, I'm still waiting on you...some kind of reference that the ring has some kind of tie with the Melchizedek priesthood would really interest me.
posted by SlyBevel at 9:11 AM on October 24, 2007

So I spoke with my dad this morning; his ring was given to him in 1943 by a girl who was sweet on him. My dad was 21 at the time, in town for a few days before being shipped out to the B-29 crews stationed on Saipan. He said it has no other association that he's aware of. I asked him if that kind of ring was a popular style in the '40s and he said "Hell, I don't know, I was too busy chasing girls."

Would have posted this sooner had not my asking about the ring triggered a long reminiscence of his youthful days as a ladies' man (oy, the details one would prefer *not* to know about one's dad).
posted by jamaro at 9:26 AM on October 24, 2007

Also, I guess I could spend more like $100. Does that change the outlook?

Not really, unfortunately. At $100, you're still restricted to silver and CZ, although you might be able to find a 10k gold version with CZ. That ring on ebay is gold plated. If you plan to wear the ring often, then gold plating will not stand up very well. Silver rings don't wear well, either. 10k gold tarnishes badly over time. If it were me, I'd either haunt ebay for awhile to see what you can find, or head to your local pawn shop and see if they have one. Also, many jewelry stores carry "estate goods" and may be willing to sell you a ring like that for $100-$150. Don't be afraid to haggle. Jewelers take in estate goods for peanuts all of the time. Also, if it's a plated piece from the 20s or 30s, then that's much better than plated pieces today - the electroplating was much thicker in that era. In fact, I own vintage plated watches from that time that still look as good as new.

I did a zoom of the third picture to see if I could get a better look at that ring. The center stone appears to be a stock inlay gold mounting - no special characteristics that I can see. If all of his colleagues have the ring too, then it's possible that there's a custom engraving on the sides of the rings that they wear that has some special meaning. Do you have any other pictures to give a clue?
posted by Flakypastry at 10:08 AM on October 24, 2007

3. The third picture above is Gordon B. Hinckley, the President of the LDS church. His wearing the ring, along with two other priestly LDS dudes, is what makes me suspect the ring as statement of affiliation. But again, could just be a manly fashion statement

It's not religion that's the affiliation between these dudes wearing the ring, it's age and culture (i.e. what is considered acceptable jewelry for a man.)
posted by desuetude at 10:15 AM on October 24, 2007

Response by poster: Wow, Jamaro, I'm sorry you had to hear that. :) Thanks for asking your dad for me.

Flakypastry: Yeah, 10k is ok with me, and I'll just have to keep my eyes open for the next little while. A cz also won't kill me. There are pawn shops nearby, and I stop in every once in a while to see what they've got.

desuetude: At this point, looks like you're right. It's probably just a fashion thing that lots of men of a certain age have.
posted by SlyBevel at 10:21 AM on October 24, 2007

The price of gold is through the roof right now. Pawn shops and stores selling estate jewelry are your best bet by far.
posted by desuetude at 12:35 PM on October 24, 2007

Best answer: No problem, SlyBevel. Just another bullet taken for AskMe :D

My dad just called back after thinking about it for several hours and said he thinks it's called a "sweetheart's ring". He remembers a lot of other guys leaving for WWII duty were getting them from their girlfriends. He mentioned the ring was a source of minor conflict between him and my mom, who was intermittently jealous that he continued to wear a ring symbolizing someone else's affection (so apparently it was recognizable to her as such, since he claims he never fessed up to her where he got it). Using that term, I googled around and turned up these two rings. The second one uses a different stone as a face, so I suppose it's the diamond (or diamond shaped) inset which is the key identifier for this style.

Then he told me an hours worth of more stories about more women he was seeing way back then. Aggh! Ah, well, your question made his day.
posted by jamaro at 3:09 PM on October 24, 2007

Response by poster: That's right, you got a best answer for that. Way to take a hit for the team!
posted by SlyBevel at 3:18 PM on October 24, 2007

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