The Iron Ring is a symbol of professional duty and obligation worn by Canadian engineers. The tradition began in 1922 when a group of Montréal engineers met to consider the solidarity of, and a means for providing guidance to, their profession. They proposed that 7 of Canada's most prominent engineers, to be known as the Corporation of the Seven Wardens, be the centre of an organization whose purpose would be to provide cohesiveness to all Canadian engineers. They looked to Rudyard Kipling for an appropriate ritual: "The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer has been instituted with the simple end of directing the young engineer towards a consciousness of his profession and its significance, and indicating to the older engineer his responsibilities in receiving, welcoming and supporting the young engineers in their beginnings."
The Iron Ring was adopted as a symbol of that ritual, as a tangible reminder to those who wear it that they have specific obligations essential to the ethical performance of their duties. The ring itself is a simple band worn on the baby finger of the working hand (eg, a right-handed person wears it on the right hand). Wearing the ring, and accepting the obligation, does not indicate the completion of a degree program, the individual's qualifications as an engineer or membership in a professional association.
The Ritual is copyrighted in Canada and the US and the ring has been registered. The Corporation of the Seven Wardens is responsible for administering the ritual, which is held in private ceremonies at the 25 separate groups, called Camps, across Canada. During the Ritual, new members are welcomed by older members. The Ritual and its obligations and history are explained to every applicant before the ceremony to allow them the opportunity to decide whether or not they wish to participate in the spirit in which it is intended.
A common misconception surrounds the Iron Ring. Many people believe that the original iron rings were constructed of the debris from a bridge collapse. The original rings were made of iron, a material familiar to engineers, by patients at a veterans' hospital in Toronto. Iron, however, is not the most suitable material for such a purpose; it turns the finger black and it reacts with the body's own chemistry and begins to deteriorate, making the ring fit more loosely. Today, while members may have a ring made of iron, most rings are actually made of stainless steel.