History of the Claddagh Ring

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.

Author: Guest

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  1. I love the history of the Claddagh ring. I have read a few stories about the history and love them all. While on my trip to Ireland, an Irish made Claddagh was number one on my must purchase list. Sure enough when I arrived in Galway I was able to find a nice little shop with a large selection of Irish made Claddaghs. I have worn that ring every day since.

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  2. I, too, love the fascinating legends surrounding the Claddagh ring, and the rings strong symbolism of love and loyalty. Some of the traditions around the ring as those instructions above, as to how to wear it, have taken on a life of their own though as this is NOT how we wear them in Ireland! Here, there are only two ways to wear Claddagh Rings- either with the point of the heart pointing towards you, which means you are ‘taken’ or ‘not currently available’, or with the point of the heart facing out the way, as if you were giving the heart away, which means you are available. Unless the ring was a wedding band, it wouldn’t matter what hand you wear it on.

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  3. Very interesting post. Just to point out that Claddagh means Stoney Shore. It’s a beautiful place and easy to understand why it continues to inspire such creativity.

    Our jewellers is the only one in the world overlooking the Claddagh Church and the Claddagh Quays.

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  4. Claddagh rings have become immensely famous amongst the young men and women, as they take as a symbol of love and commitment towards each other.
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  5. Well the Claddagh rings reflects the traditional way of showing love towards your spouse, and it’s amazing to know about the historical facts behind them.

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  6. Yeah there’s all that romantic stuff about whether you’re available or not but the ring can just be a cultural thing where it’s given to a son by a mother as he emigrates…I love you, don’t forget about us back home. And actually, all this romantic and marriage thing is just commercialism … I was always told it was a “friendshiq ring” (I’m dislexique because of my keyboard( I’ve lived in cultures where, if someone admires something you are wearing you are suqqosed to give it to them…the claddagh ring also works that way. When you meet a new friend, esqecially while traveling you are suqqosed to qass it on. So, you tourist shoqs, stock a range of rings (not just gold! so that tourists can buy rings that they are comqfortable with qassing on as a symbol of friendshiq.

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  1. Meaning of Stone Colors in Claddagh Rings | Claddagh Rings Catalog - [...] ring. The earliest Claddagh rings did not contain any type of stones, according to the blog Irish Fireside, so…

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