The Irish culture touches everything from our way of life right down to the jewellery we wear. But no piece encapsulates Irish tradition more than the Claddagh ring. This distinctive Irish ring has centuries of history, and men and women all over the world wear it today as a symbol of love, friendship, and loyalty.
Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about the Claddagh ring. We’ll cover everything from this ring’s origins to the many meanings behind its design.
The Claddagh ring, known by its Irish name of fáinne Chladaigh, is a traditional Irish piece of jewellery dating back hundreds of years. Its design includes two clasped hands, a heart in the middle, and a crown at the top.
Gold Claddagh rings with simple designs were the first ever worn. Today, they come in various designs and materials, from sterling silver bands to intricate rings with precious stones.
Some Irish families have a tradition around their Claddagh rings. They pass the ring from mothers to their eldest daughters, keeping them as a family heirloom through the generations.
Of course, you can wear a Claddagh ring even if you don’t have Irish roots. You may receive one as a friendship ring or a symbol of true love or loyalty.
Some say it’s bad luck to buy a Claddagh ring for yourself. However, many shoppers today pay this superstition no mind. Buying yourself a Claddagh ring is a lovely way to express self-love while sharing your Irish heritage or affinity for the culture.
The Claddagh ring comes from the fishing village of Claddagh, just outside of Galway City. The name Claddagh comes from the Irish word cladach, which describes a flat stony beach or shore.
One legend tells how Richard Joyce, a fisherman from Galway, crafted the first Claddagh ring around the 17th century. The story begins with pirates abducting the fishermen in the Joyce family while they were sailing near the West Indies.
The men were then sold into slavery in Africa, and Richard Joyce was made to work for a Moorish goldsmith. He took a small piece of gold each day and eventually used them to create the first Claddagh ring.
Joyce designed a simple ring with two clasped hands holding a heart and topped with a crown. These symbols represented Joyce’s hope that his loved ones would remain loyal while he was away.
Upon his return to Ireland, Joyce gave the ring to his sweetheart, who wore it to symbolise their everlasting love. Over time, the Claddagh ring became a cherished symbol of Irish culture and heritage.
A second myth of the original Claddagh ring dates back to the 16th century when an Irish woman named Margaret Joyce married a Spanish man named Domingo de Rona. Her husband died and left her his riches, and she used them to construct bridges in Sligo and Galway. As a reward for these good deeds, an eagle dropped the first Claddagh ring in her lap.
No matter how the original came to be, the Claddagh ring certainly possesses a magical quality. It has made a remarkable journey through history and remains an iconic piece of Irish jewellery to this day.
Over the years, each component of this ring has taken on a specific meaning. The two hands on the Claddagh ring represent friendship. The heart signifies love, and the crown is a symbol of loyalty.
Together, these virtues form the perfect relationship: one based on friendship, love, and loyalty. This is why the Claddagh ring is a popular choice for engagement and wedding rings. Here are some reasons you may wish to wear a Claddagh ring, depending on which of the virtues you’d like it to represent.
Depending on the message you’d like to share with the world, you can wear your ring on the left or right hand. If it’s on your left hand with the heart facing outward, it’s a sign that you are engaged. When the heart faces inward on this hand, the ring indicates that you are married.
On the other hand, if you wear this ring on the right with the heart facing outward, you’ll convey that you’re single and still looking for love. Wearing the ring on the right with the heart facing inward means you’re in a committed relationship. Of course, you can always decide not to follow these rules and wear the ring however you prefer.
This ring can also serve as your engagement ring and contribute a meaningful ritual to your wedding ceremony. Your partner can move the ring from your right hand to the left to symbolise your new marriage.
If you prefer a unique wedding ring, you can always have a custom Claddagh ring designed just for you. Some popular customisations include diamond bands or added Celtic symbols.
Finally, both men and women can wear this Irish ring. Men often choose Claddagh rings with thicker bands and larger designs.
The Claddagh ring is a gorgeous piece of Irish jewellery with centuries of fascinating history. It’s a treasure steeped in Irish tradition, and wearing one can represent a connection to your heritage.
Contact our genealogy experts at the Irish Family History Centre today if you want to explore your Irish ancestry. We’ll help you piece together your family tree and discover the ties that connect you to Ireland.