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The History Of Claddagh Rings

The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring that has been worn for centuries by men and women alike. Claddagh rings can be exchanged as wedding rings, engagement rings, or just as a symbol of love and loyalty amongst friends or family.

They signify a special connection to three sentiments: love, loyalty and friendship, as well as the island of Ireland.

What is a Claddagh ring?

A Claddagh ring is a ring that depicts a heart with a crown on top of it, embraced by two hands on either side. The heart represents love, the crown loyalty, and the hands friendship. There have been various representations of this design across the years, but this basic structure remains the same.

They are based on the Faith Rings of Fede, which were groups of finger rings typically worn during the age of the Roman empire and throughout Medieval Europe. They are also similar to gimmel rings, in that they both depict hands and hearts.

History of Claddagh rings

Irish tradition is rooted in storytelling, so there’s no surprise that there are many stories as to how the Claddagh was invented.

The predominant tale is that of Richard Joyce, who was from the small fishing village of Claddagh in County Galway. Joyce was kidnapped by pirates and sold to a goldsmith in Algeria, who taught him his craft. All the while, his mind was back in Ireland with his one true love, and he created the Claddagh ring to give her when they were reunited. Eventually, he was sent home and found his love, and he presented her with the ring before spending the rest of his life with her.

The Claddagh ring then became a popular symbol of romance across the island, with many people giving them to their betrothed.

Popularisation

Claddagh rings gained popularity outside of Ireland in the 19th century. The Great Famine created a mass exodus, when many Irish people travelled on coffin ships to America and Canada. Often, Claddagh rings were the only valuable item a family may have possessed, and they held onto them closely when they moved overseas.

As well as their introduction to North America in this century, they also gained popularity in England. Queen Victoria wore a Claddagh ring, which was the first ring worn by an English monarch to be created in Ireland.

Claddagh rings and traditions

In Irish tradition, the Claddagh is passed down from mother to eldest daughter and should be kept in the family for generations. There are many ways to wear Claddagh rings, each signifying a different status from the wearer.

The ring is traditionally taken to signify the wish that love and friendship should reign supreme. Because of this, it is said that a Claddagh ring should only be given by someone who loves you, no matter what kind of love this may be.

Some people may take the ring to represent the Christian tradition of the Holy Trinity, although this is not the original meaning.

How to wear a Claddagh ring

There are four different traditional ways to wear a Claddagh ring:

  • The first is to wear it on your right hand, with the point of the heart facing toward the hand and arm. This signifies that the wearer is taken, and they are in a relationship.
  • To wear the ring on your right hand with the point of the heart facing away from you signifies that the wearer is open to love and not in a relationship.
  • Wearing the Claddagh on the left hand with the heart pointing inward shows the wearer is engaged or in a lifelong relationship.
  • And, to wear the Claddagh on the left with the heart pointing out shows the wearer is married!