Can You Help?


In 2016 I made a blog post about a ‘Mysterious Masonic Artefact’ and asked for your help in identification. Yesterday, 3th March 2018 I was given further evidence of the same artefact but this time without a masonic connection. In this blog post I have the original, plus the update and ask if anyone can help. Last time I had suggestions such as a leather belt or tie clasp, but there were few other comments.

Keith Bains was out detecting recently when he unearthed a small metallic masonic item and didn’t know what it was. He showed it to me and I didn’t recognise it either, so sent a picture off to a couple of my masonic friends, asking if they had any idea what it could be. They came up with ideas, but nothing definite. One of them even asked on an online masonic forum if anyone had come across anything similar, but to no avail.


© Keith Bains

Then I sent a picture to the curator of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE ) museum asking for their help in identification. I gave them all the details I knew, but this wasn’t much. The size is important. At approximately one inch and a quarter long by an inch high, it’s rather small. The hinge works perfectly well. Found in the North of England and made of metal. That’s about it, really!

The UGLE spokesman was rather baffled too. This was the answer.

“It isn’t a book plate, could be a clasp for a pouch but it’s oriented the wrong way. Might be a strap end, for a hanging strap of some sort, but we can’t for the life of us figure it out otherwise. Sorry. If we get sudden inspiration we’ll get back to you.”

So, as they say, the jury’s still out. If you know what is might be, then please contact me … I’m losing sleep over this! Somebody, somewhere knows what it is. With your help, I’d love to tell the finder and the museum what this item is – for definite!



Keith Dodds showed me a metal masonic artefact last year, but wasn’t sure what it was. Neither am I, but it does have similarities with the one above. Have any of my readers come across anything like this before? Picture shown is about 5cm long. This picture was shown on a previous occasion. We still don’t know what it is or its function.

© Keith Dodds



Sandra Shaw contacted me today regarding another one of these items that had turned up on the UKDFD. As an advisor on the database, she is also determined to find out what it is. Interestingly, this example doesn’t seem to have a masonic connection. Have you many ideas? Click to enlarge.

Sandra also points out another similar artefact, number 11734 that has been on the database, unidentified, since February 2008. It is recorded as a copper-ally hinted clasp. On one end there is a circular gilded mount or setting for a jewel or stone, now missing. One end has a pierced, the other end has a protruding lug with a raised point. Again, not masonic … any ideas? Again, click on image for a larger picture.

Courtesy of the UKDFD

The member known as Steve (silver shilling) from the British Metal Detecting Group BMD writes:

Hi John – I like a good mystery item and have spent many hours trying to reserch this one and this is the best I can do. It could be a clamp for a bracelet as many of the masonic jewels just clip on for decoration. Here is a picture I’ve adapted to show where these items could have been used.

© silver shilling

David Frew contacted me via Facebook and said that he would post the artefact on various Masonic FB pages. He received a a reply from the person responsible for the local Masonic Archives, and this what he said:

“I believe it is the catch from an old Masonic bible used to hold it closed. We have many similar in our archive. Hope it helps you”.

Case closed? What about the other non-masonic examples?

UPDATE September 2019 – From Sandra Shaw

Hi John, can you give this a bump please, we now have anothr one on UKDFD, this one is missing the backpart and the decoration is a cross with trefoil terminals, not a common find I wonder they have been imported, possibly from the US, all the suggestions made on your blog have been followed up, I have an image of all five of them which I will send to you.
Best regards Sandra. And here they are . . . 


27 thoughts on “Can You Help?”

  1. My first thought was that it might be a tie, or sash, clasp John.. Well, that was my only thought so fat I am afraid. Someone did a lot of intricate work to make that..


  2. Very interesting John?

    My first thought was a woggle but the fact that its metal doesn’t make sense. Then I was wondering if it could be something that mounts to your belt with a hook, that would allow you to attach a chain or something to it.

    I will post a picture of what I mean at the usual spot.

    I know a few people who are / were Free Masons, so I will see if they can help identify the mystery items?

    • I have thought often about this John and like you I am no further forward I always presumed from the day of finding it, it was Masonic related. This hobby certainly does throw spanners in the works of what we think we know !
      Keith (Heisenberg)

  3. Hi John. I have a similar clasp which I found here in Australia at an 1860s Inn site. It is not masonic related. It has
    the word PATENT in bold lettering across it. I have always assumed it to be a cloak clasp for a light garment. Mine is slightly larger than the measurements you give. I need to get a photo up on my site.

      • Hi John I have loaded three photographs of my clasp on my site hambo’s antique gun tools and metal detecting finds, under general finds. they are the third , fourth & fifth photos. I don’t seem to be able to load pics directly to your site. I am sure it is possible, but I am extremely challenged in this area. Thanks. Ray Hambo.

        • Thank you Ray. I’ve had a look and will hang fire at the moment … don’t wish to confuse the issue. Your clasp is rather different and looks as though it may have been used on a belt. Even though I won’t show at the moment, I appreciate you showing it to me.

  4. Hello John,
    My guess is that they are all connected to early Freemasonry and are probably clasps to hold a sash together. The third item looks like a symbol of the guarding of an entrance and therefore may belong to a Lodge Tyler, or doorkeeper.
    The best people to try are Toye,Kenning & Spencer (below) who have been making regalia items since 1685.

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    London (office and Masonic showroom):

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    Birmingham factory (metals manufacturing only)

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    Newtown Road, Bedworth CV12 8QR



    • Thanks Roy. As stated in the blog, I contacted the Museum of Freemasonry at Great Queen Street, and they didn’t know. TK&S are worth a try and I shall contact them.

  5. My dad recons it a Tally clip where lodge members would put there tally in for safe keeping. Bit like you used for keeping pounds or sovereigns in.

    • My partner has found one of these today. Slightly different along the top edge but a round clasp. I don’t think it would be a book clasp by the shape. There is a narrowing of the curved hinge towards the lower part, so my thoughts are it’s a neckerchief or scarf clip. It won’t clasp around my finger to give you a sense of scale. Would be interesting to know what it is.

  6. It really does look like a scouts woggle, although I’ve never seen a hinged one. So I’d guess its for holding together tow straps or bits of cloth.

    Another avenue of research might be actual stonemasons. Not all “Square and Compass” designs are masonic. For example the Square and Compass pub in Dorset was not a masonic lodge but was used by actual stone masons from the local quarries.

  7. Every now and again I (and I’m sure other readers) revisit some of your ‘cold cases’ (Orla and David don’t give up!) and no success yet on the masonic clasp! I subscribe to the woggle theory, although the “tally” clasp Idea did occur – for holding some kind of token. The only other thing I can suggest is a hair clasp of some kind, although I think that’s a bit unlikely. I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of it eventually! Perhaps we could consult Joan the Wad?? Cheers, John!

  8. The Sandra Shaw piece is stamped with the Greek Key otherwise known as the eternity symbol. Often found on bracelets and necklaces, sometimes rings. However, the function of the piece is a mystery to me.

  9. “The Greek Key/meander motif took its name from the river Meander in ancient Greece (present day Turkey). The Meander was characterised by a very convoluted path. It became the most important symbol in Ancient Greece, symbolising infinity or the eternal flow of things” … from Wikepedia

  10. An interesting article John with a lot of great ideas and suggestions which have got an awful lot of people scratching their heads, It has also generated a phenomenal amount of interest and has thrown up similar finds which all have the same or similar questions to be answered.

    Thanks for posting.


  11. Hi J, It”s my understanding that the United Grand Lodge of England is vehemently opposed to any “equivalent Grand Lodge for Women, although many Masonic organizations respectively, or not, just don”t give a damn what the UGLE thinks and those Lodges allow women anyway lol. A Masonic sorority on par wth any fraternal Grand Lodge with their own rules and passwords may not be a bad idea Many are content, however, with organizations such as the Order of the Eastern Star. But, at the end of the day, I”m not a Freemason, I”m just a simple student of Biblical-Masonic ideas and history, so don”t take my word as authoritative.

  12. Hi John, can you give this a bump please, we now have anothr one on UKDFD, this one is missing the backpart and the decoration is a cross with trefoil terminals, not a common find I wonder they have been imported, possibly from the US, all the suggestions made on your blog have been followed up, I have an image of all five of them which I will send to you.
    Best regards Sandra.

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