Lodge 43’s Albert L. Einolf Museum is fortunate to have in our collection of artifacts, not one but two complete sets of the King Solomon Quarry Gavel Set.
These wonderful Masonic Common Gavel Sets are hand-made of stone from the King Solomon Quarry, aka Zedekiah’s Cave, in Jerusalem. These sets include four pieces: two gavels with limestone heads and turned olive wood handles, the pointed or gable-shaped stonemason’s gavel being the “true Masonic gavel”, a book (Bible), and keystone both carved from limestone. Each of the four pieces has the compass and square carved into it with the letter “G” in its center, along with the words, “King Solomon Quarry Jerusalem”. The book has on its back “cover” a carved Five-Pointed Star, this star representing the five points of fellowship.
The Olive wood box has the square & compass hand carved on the lid. The box is Satin lined. The stone heads on the gavel, common gavel, book & keystone, are all made from stone from King Solomon’s Quarry, Jerusalem. The stone is a limestone called “Melekeh”, which means Royal. Each stone piece is inscribed “King Solomon’s Quarry” and also has the Square & Compass engraved, as a final touch. The book also has the five-pointed star engraved into the stone as well!
These King Solomon Gavel Sets have become increasingly scarce, and have not been available as presentation sets for over 75 years. Their availability on popular internet sites is rarely seen, and their value today would be in the hundreds of dollars.
According to one website (phoenixmasonry.org) this type of King Solomon Quarry gavel set was commonly purchased (by Freemasons) as a souvenir item of the Holy Land during the 1920s up through the mid-1940’s.
To my knowledge, they were never available by mail order, or available as a retail collector’s item in any U.S. market.
Zedekiah’s Cave is its Hebrew name, while King Solomon’s Quarry is its name in English, and the Cave of the Kings is what it is called by the Arabs. Josephus Flavius, in his book Wars of the Jews (against the Romans), refers to the cave as the “Royal Caverns.” The name originated from the “Melekeh” or “Royal” limestone quarried in it. This later led to the cave being called “King Solomon’s Quarries.”
The stones for Solomon’s temple may have been hewn and taken from this quarry around 970 BC (1 Kings 6:1):
Solomon had seventy thousand carriers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hills, as well as thirty-three hundred foremen who supervised the project and directed the workmen. At the king’s command, they removed from the quarry large blocks of quality stone to provide a foundation of dressed stone for the temple. The craftsmen of Solomon and Hiram and the men of Gebal (Byblos) cut and prepared the timber and stone for the building of the temple. -1 Kings 5:15-18
Some minor quarrying occurred in 1907 when stone was obtained to be used in the Ottoman clock tower over the Jaffa Gate. Otherwise, the site was not frequented again until the 1920s, when it began to be something of a tourist attraction. In the late 20th century, the East Jerusalem Development Corporation carried out restorations of the cave. In the mid-1980s, The Jerusalem Foundation built paths and installed lights throughout the cavern, facilitating tourist access. As a historical tourist site no removal of stone in any manner is now permitted from the site.
Zedekiah’s Cavern, also called Solomon’s Quarries is a 5-acre underground melekeh limestone quarry that runs the length of five city blocks under the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It was carved over a period of several thousand years and is a remnant of the largest quarry in Jerusalem, stretching from Jeremiah’s Grotto and the Garden Tomb to the walls of the Old City. The cave has great historical importance in Freemasonry.
These two beautiful sets of artistic craftsmanship from that area are on display on the first floor of the Masonic Center. They are located in the Lodge 43 display case. They are never to be handled without white gloves owing to the limestone nature of the stone which results a white limestone residue to the human touch.
These remarkable collector’s sets are made through the courtesy of a donation by two of our brethren and are truly to be appreciated and to be admired for years to come.
Nathaniel Gilchrist P.M.