Celtic jewelry designs are cherished by many, but there is none more recognizable than the Claddagh ring.
Claddagh is the name of a small fishing village just near Galway city in Ireland; the Claddagh ring supposedly originated in this area. The Celtic Claddagh ring has three main elements – a heart, which is clasped by a pair of hands which, in turn, has crown above it. The hands signify friendship, the heart embodies love, and the crown represents loyalty.
It is this symbolism that led to the enduring legacy of this particular piece of Celtic jewelry.
Richard Joyce and the Claddagh
There are many legends surrounding the Claddagh ring, but its significance is generally attributed to Richard Joyce since some of the earliest versions of the Claddagh ring bear his initials as a mark.
One day, Joyce departed by ship from the town of Claddagh towards the plantations of the West Indies. He was to be married that week, but his ship was captured by Algerian pirates and the crew was sold as a slaves; Joyce worked for a Moorish goldsmith who trained him in making jewelry. He soon became a master and created a ring for the woman at home. In 1689, he was released. He returned to Claddagh to find the woman he was not able to marry previously. He gave her the ring he crafted during slavery and they were married.
Wearing the Claddagh Ring
How one wears the Celtic Claddagh ring sends a message – wearing a Claddagh ring on the right hand with the design facing outward generally means that the wearer is not involved in a promising relationship. Placement on the right hand facing inward means that one has fallen in love. Wearing the Claddagh ring on the left hand with the design facing outward is meant to convey that the wearer is engaged, while having the Claddagh ring on the left hand facing in means one is married.
Contributed by Saint Patrick’s Guild – Located in Saint Paul, MN, Saint Patrick’s Guild is Catholic Christian store specializing in inspirational gifts, books, and church supplies since 1949. Their online collection includes several Claddagh rings and jewelry in both silver and gold… most handcrafted in Ireland.