- "Shame Archmaester Ch'Vyalthan wasn't a better writer."
In the books
Much like the professors in a university faculty, each of the archmaesters is the foremost expert in a specific field, such as the archmaester of healing or the archmaester of economics, etc. This is in contrast with the ruling council of the Faith of the Seven, the Most Devout, whose members have no official distinction between themselves. While each archmaester is thus not interchangeable, in theory each archmaester is equal, each casting one vote when the assembled Conclave of archmaesters elects a new Grand Maester.
In practice, of course, archmaesters of certain areas of study are considered more prestigious than others. For example, the archmaesters of healing or economics are held in high esteem, while archmaesters of obscure topics such as magic tend to be ostracized.
Archmaesters possess a ring, a rod, and a mask of the material that represents their field of mastery. For example, the archmaster of healing has a ring, rod, and mask of silver, the archmaester of economics a ring, rod, and mask of yellow gold, and the archmaester of magic a ring, rod and mask of Valyrian steel.