There are no howlers quite as hilarious as anti-Masonic howlers.
The truth is that the ring given to the 33rd degree Mason in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, at least in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, is either to be buried on the finger of the Brother when his end comes, or returned to the Supreme Council by his family so that it may be passed to another generation of Freemasons.
As to the symbolism, it features a triangle or delta (with the number "33"), in plain gold with no other color, and three distinct rings, which might be interpreted as 3+3. Inside, it is inscribed with the Latin phrase "Deus Meumque Jus", meaning "God and My Right" (or perhaps more clearly, 'God and my moral rightness').
The French translation of the phrase - "Dieu et mon droit" - is actually the royal motto of the monarch of the United Kingdom, and it appears on a scroll under the shield of the coat of arms of the U.K. (interestingly, only when used on the coat of arms outside of Scotland , for a whole stack of diplomatic reasons). You'll find it all over England, and even on passports issued there. The legendary source is said to have originally been a battle cry of England's King Richard I during the Battle of Gisors in 1198, and his defeat of France's Philip II. Richard adopted it as his motto, and it refers to the longstanding notion of the 'divine right of kings.' Subsequently, Henry V during the early 1400s officially made it the royal motto, and plastering it on the coat of arms in French was partially to rub in his right to the throne of France at the time (although, Norman French was actually the language of the English court and the nobility after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, anyway)
So, the motto is the Latin version of a French phrase that originated in England and used in a Masonic degree system named after Scotland that descended from French sources by way of Haiti with the help of a Dutch trader through Jamaica and eventually almost completely redefined in the United States.
As to the three rings, my own interpretation from here on is 'Think twice before speaking once.' But that's just me.
There are approximately 11,000 33° Scottish Rite Masons in the United States, roughly split 50/50 between the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction and the Southern Jurisdiction. And for those who have asked, the 33° ritual in the two jurisdictions is VERY different. Even the names of the degree itself are different in the two Supreme Councils: in the NMJ it is called Inspector General, while in the SJ it is called Sovereign Grand Inspector General. However, outside of the U.S., a 33° Scottish Rite-styled Mason is extremely rare to encounter. It is common throughout Europe for members of the organizations to be 'perfected' only to the 18° and rise no farther. (And just to be even more confusing, the Rectified Scottish Rite is not the same thing as the Scottish Rite, AT ALL.)
The number 33 was not just selected at random by the originators of the Scottish Rite. It has long been considered sacred within Christianity for several reasons. It is the multiple use of three, signifying the Holy Trinity. Christ was 33 years old when he ascended into heaven, and the gospels list thirty-three miracles performed by Christ. (Dan Brown is incorrect when he states, appropriately on page 333 of The Lost Symbol, that God is mentioned thirty-three times in the Book of Genesis. God is actually mentioned thirty-two times, in the first chapter of Genesis of the King James Bible.)
Thirty-three also appears in the Old Testament and other Jewish writings. Jacob had thirty-three children; Mosaic Law required that a woman purify herself for thirty-three days after her male child was circumcised; the holy day of Lag B’Omer occurs thirty-three days after the start of Passover; and the Seal of Solomon, or Star of David, made up of two intersecting triangles, is considered a graphic representation of 3+3. It also plays a prominent role in Kabbalah. And it is perhaps appropriate that Jeremiah 33:3 says, "Call
to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."
The religions of Islam, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Hinduism all associate sacred meanings with the number thirty-three. There are even thirty-three bones in the human vertebrae. Therefore, it appears in the Scottish Rite as a symbol of the fraternity’s universality as well as the perfection that every man should aspire to achieve in his soul.
Another curious aspect of the numbers thirty-two and thirty-three in regards to the Scottish Rite is that both Charleston, South Carolina, the birthplace of the Rite in 1801, and Jerusalem, location of Solomon’s Temple, lie between the 32° and 33° latitude. For many years it was common for Scottish Rite officers to include the latitude of their location when writing letters, articles or papers.
The double-headed eagle is the principal symbol of the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite. It is not, as is mistakenly referred to in Brown’s text concerning the tattoo on Mal’akh’s chest, using his nipples as the bird’s eyes, a “double-headed phoenix.” The legendary phoenix, rising from the ashes, as described in Greek (and earlier) mythology, is not what depicted here at all.
Rather, the symbol comes from an early European rite of degrees called the Order of the Royal Secret, from which the Scottish Rite descended in 1801. The Royal Secret’s most advanced degree was called “The Knight of the White and Black Eagle.” The French Masonic authority that issued a patent (a document that authorizes the formation of new chapters) in 1761 was called the Council of the Emperors of the East and West. They used the double-headed eagle as a heraldic device (like a logo) on their documents, and it is believed they had appropriated the imagery from the period of the division of the Roman Empire into an eastern and western empire under the Byzantine emperors. The image of the double-headed eagle also appears in heraldry of the Holy Roman Empire (see image at right), Germany, Austria, Russia, Armenia, Albania, Serbia and many others. It also appears as a symbol of the Greek Orthodox Church.
And finally, since France is one of the principal fonts of source material in Scottish Rite degree rituals, practices, and symbolic interpretation, note that 33 is the international dialing code for calling French telephone numbers.
I'll just leave that right here...