Apart from their practical
uses to protect the hands from cold and injury, gloves have symbolic
connotations. The old illustrations of operative masons at work do not
show them wearing gloves. Their use, then, must have been mostly
ceremonial, and their adoption in speculative Freemasonic ritual must be
explained by their symbolism. The Italian writer
Vanni considers that the origin of the symbolism lies not in
their use by certain craftsmen or as protection against the cold, but
rather in their military use. Carrying heavy weapons, such as the spear,
large sword, axe or mace, involved wearing gloves for protection and to
improve the grip. Gloves were at first made of leather, but eventually
became protected with steel mail. To present a glove, then represented
giving up the means of protection, and granting power to the receiver.
 On the other hand, throwing the glove
represented unfaithfulness and condemnation, as in the case of medieval
judges who threw the glove to the convict.
Gloves do not appear to
have been used in biblical times. In fact, the two names for glove in
the Hebrew language (kfafah and
ksaiah) are of modern coinage, the one
derived from the word for hand and the other from the verb to cover.
Probably the warm climate of the
made gloves superfluous.
In medieval times, the use
of gloves by the aristocracy became more frequent, being worn in some
sports (hunting with falcons, archery) and simply as ostentatious
displays of luxury. In the courtly etiquette, if the knight offered
perfumed white gloves to a lady and she accepted them, this established
a relation of dependency between them.
The custom of presenting a
pair of white gloves to the neophyte ( Initiate)
at the conclusion of an initiation ceremony has a long historical
tradition, and it is recorded already in the 10th century. A chronicle
relates that in the year 960, the monks of Saint Alban’s Monastery in
presented a pair of gloves to the bishop at his investiture.  The
prayer pronounced during the investiture ceremony included a phrase
beseeching God to cloth with purity the hands of His servant.
Similarly, the kings of
received a pair of gloves at their coronation. The consecrated hands of
the king, like those of the bishop, should not be soiled by contact with
impure things. After the ceremony, the Hospitaler
burned the gloves, to prevent their later use for profane purposes. 
Mende (1237-1206) interpreted gloves as symbols of modesty, since
the good deeds performed with humility must be kept secret. 
The use of gloves by
medieval masons is confirmed by documentary evidence. In the year 1322,
at Ely (a cathedral city of England), the sacrist
purchased gloves for the masons engaged in the “new work”, and in 1456,
at Eton College, five pairs of gloves were presented to the “layers” of
the walls, “as custom may have required”. 
Another document indicates
the Head Steward noted in his accounts that “twenty pence were given as
glove money to all the masons occupied in rebuilding the College”. 
In the year 1423 at
ten pairs of gloves were supplied to the masons (“setters”) with a total
cost of eighteen pence. 
There are numerous reports
of gloves being supplied to “hewers” and “layers” in
from 1598 to 1688. 
during the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras (1558-1625) gloves enjoyed a
prestige that we can hardly appreciate today. They were articles of
luxury, having great symbolism, and they constituted treasured gifts.
In 1571, Robert
Higford sent a pair of gloves to the wife of
Larence Banister. In 1609, J. Beaulieu
communicated to William Trumbull that “My lord has given 50 shillings
and a pair of gloves to Monsignor Marchant,
as reward for having sent the design for the stairs”. In New Year day of
1606, each of the royal musicians presented a pair of perfumed gloves to
king James I, and in 1563 the Earl of Herford,
with whom the queen was displeased, wanting to regain her favour, wrote
to Lord Robert Dudley, the queen’s lover, begging the Lord to present in
his name a pair of gloves to the Queen as proof of his devotion. 
Gloves were a customary
New Year gift, sometimes substituted by “glove money”. Also, gloves
were a traditional present of lovers to their fiancées.
Shakespeare, as we know,
was the son of a glove-maker. In his play Much Ado about Nothing, the
female character Hero declares “these gloves the count sent me; they are
an excellent perfume” (Act III, Scene 4). In The Winter’s Tale,
Autolycus sings of “Gloves as sweet as
Damask roses”, and the clown proclaims: “If I were not in love with
Mopsa, thou shouldst
take no money of me; but being enthralled as I am, it will also be the
bondage of certain ribbons and gloves” (Act IV, Scene 4), and in King
Henry V, the king exchanges gloves with the soldier Williams, as pledge
to meet again after the battle (Act IV, Scene 1).
The documents quoted at
the beginning refer to operative masons. The tradition, however, was
continued in Speculative Masonry. Since 1599 there is evidence that each
mason, at his initiation, had to receive a pair of gloves (paid out of
his own pocket!). The oldest document on this matter is known as the
Shaw Statutes, addressed to Kilwinning Lodge
December 1599, which
prescribe that Fellows of the Craft, at their reception to that degree,
were to pay a fee of 10 Scottish pounds and 10 shillings for the gloves.
Sometimes, the new Mason
had to provide gloves for the entire company as part of his entrance
fees. The practice was known as “clothing the lodge”.
Constitutions of 1723, in article VII stipulates that “Every new Brother
at his making is decently to cloath the
Lodge, that is, all the Brethren present...”.
Documents of the Lodge of
Melrose for the years 1674-1675 demonstrate that both apprentices and
fellow-crafts had to pay entrance fees “with sufficient gloves to ye
document of 1670 requires the Apprentice to pay four royal dollars as
well as a linen apron and a pair of good gloves for each of the
brethren.  The use of linen instead of
leather is remarkable, but it is explained by the abundance of
high-quality flax in the region. Leather was more expensive.
In 1724 a lodge at
Dunblane is recorded as delivering gloves
and aprons to the “intrants”, 
and in 1754, in
the local lodge established that “no one can enter the lodge without a
pair of gloves for each member of that lodge”. 
In The Natural History of
Staffordshire (1688), Robert Plot, LLD, relates
that it was a custom among Freemasons “that when any are admitted, they
call a meeting (or Lodge, as they term it in some places), which must
consist of at least of 5 or 6 of the Ancients of the Order, to whom the
candidates present with gloves, and so likewise to their wives...”. 
This appears to be the first mention of the custom of presenting
a second pair of gloves for the woman as part of the initiation
An exposure called “A
Mason’s Examination”, published in 1723 in a London newspaper, The
Flying Post, begins thus: “When a Free-Mason is
enter’d, after having given to all present of the Fraternity a
Pair of Men and Women’s Gloves and Leathern Apron...”. 
This became the tradition
in all initiations, and it is specifically mentioned in the French
initiation rituals of the 18th century, as described in the “exposures”.
Already the first known
French “exposure”, dating from 1737, called Reception d’un Frey-Maחon
(Reception of a Free-Mason), notes that in the initiation ceremony, the
candidate “is given the apron of a Free-Mason, which is of white Skin, a
pair of men’s Gloves for himself, and another [pair of] ladies’ Gloves,
for her whom he esteems the most”. 
The custom, however,
appears to have been abandoned in
because since the beginnings of the 19th century it is no longer
mentioned in the regulations and minutes of the lodges. The Emulation
Ritual (post 1813) ignores the practice. In
and other countries, particularly in lodges working the Ancient and
Accepted Scottish Rite, the tradition remains in force until this very
day. Usually, the presentation of the gloves comes at the end of the
ceremony, and the Master of the Lodge then adds some words to the effect
that the hands of the newly-made Mason, purified by the initiation, must
never be sullied again, and as for the second pair, it is intended to
stress the high respect in which Masons hold women in general, and the
one closest to one’s heart in particular.
Saban mentions a custom, according to which
three pairs of white gloves were presented to the delegates of the Grand
Orient when they came to install a lodge, before they entered the
The glove’s protection is
not only material but also spiritual. For this reason, when touching the
Holy Book, (in the obligation, for example) the hand must not be
covered. Likewise, when forming the “fraternal chain” customary in some
rituals, the hands must not wear gloves. This, to allow the subtle
energy of the magic circle to circulate freely.
In the higher degrees of
the Scottish Rite, gloves of several colors:
white, black or green, are prescribed for the regalia of various
degrees, the symbolism of the colour being related to that of the
guanti in massoneria”,
Hiram (Italian Masonic journal), N° 4/2000, p. 49.
Latour, A., “The glove, a badge of office”,
Ciba Review , 61,
October 1947, p. 2206.
Latour, Ibid., p.
Knoop & Jones, The Mediaeval Mason, 1949,
p.69, quoted by Harry Carr, The Freemason at Work, 1976, p. 320.
Heisler, Ron, “The Impact of Freemasonry on
Elizabethan Literature”, The Hermetic Journal,
1990, note 36.
Salzman, Building in
p. 80. Quoted by Harry Carr, op. cit. p. 320.
Knoop & Jones, The Scottish Mason, pp.
43-44, quoted by Henry Carr, op. cit. p. 320.
W.F., History of Freemasonry in the
(1893), pp. 12-13, quoted by Harry Carr, op.
cit. p. 320.
 Miller, A.L.,
Notes on the Early History...of the Lodge of
(1919), p. 61,
Harry Carr, op. cit. p. 320
 Lyon, D.
Murray, History of the Lodge of Edinburgh (1873,1901), p. 204, quoted by
Harry Carr, op. cit. p. 320.
 Carr, Harry,
# 64, p. 34.
Knoop, Jones & Hamer,
Early Masonic Pamphlets, Q.C.C.C.,
 Carr, Harry,
op. cit. p. 320.
 Carr, Harry
(Editor), The Early French Exposures, Quatuor
Coronati Lodge N° 2076, London 1971, p. 3.
Saban, Albert, Notions
Maחonniques Elיmentaires, private
edition by Lumiטre Lodge, Tel Aviv 1995.