Here are 10 famous claddagh ring wearers! Some of them may surprise you But first, a few need to know facts behind the origin and symbols of the Irish Claddagh ring.
What is an Irish Claddagh Ring?
There are very few people in Ireland who don't know what a claddagh ring is but for those further overseas, it is a traditional Irish ring that was customary for lovers to give one another during the 19th and 20th century. It is still popular today and often gifted as keepsakes, or for visitors to take home as a momentum of their travels. Although that wasn't actually how it originated. The original design is attributed to Richard Joyce, who was a slave in the West Indies when he was captured by Mediterranean pirates. He was sold to a Moorish goldsmith who trained him, before setting up a jewelry business when he eventually got back to Galway in the 17th century.
The ring was adopted by the people of Claddagh village just outside the walls of Galway city (now more of a suburb of the city). It's inhabitants were well known for their staunch resistance of British influence and passion for sticking to their own customs, language and way of life. The village was largely self sufficient, with the men heading out every day on boats known as Galway Hookers to catch fish from Galway Bay. When they returned, the women would bring the catch across the water to the city to sell. The fishermen of the village wore the ring as a sort of identification; so if anyone was found fishing in their territory and wasn't wearing the ring, there would be trouble.
See more of our Claddagh Jewelry and the evolution of the Irish Claddagh Ring from classic to contemporary
Claddagh Ring Symbolism
Eventually the ring made its way across the country to Dublin, where fashionistas fell in love with the beautiful symbolism and it became a must have accessory. Designs became more ornate with added jewels but the basic elements remained the same. A heart held by two hands with a crown on top; the design symbols that the Irish Claddagh ring is now famous for. The heart was attributed to love, the hands to friendship and the crown represented loyalty. The ring became a popular gift for friends and lovers to give each other. With increased emigration spread across the water to Britain, the United States, Canada and even some further flung places. the Irish Claddagh ring became family heirlooms for the growing Irish diaspora.
An etiquette of sorts emerged about how to wear the ring in regard to your relationship status. Although how this started and where it came from is not completely clear. It all depends on which hand you wear the ring and in which direction. On the left hand, if the heart is pointing inwards towards your body, you are taken and it is a serious relationship. On the right hand if the heart is pointing inwards, you have a special someone but you're not necessarily committed to them; the ring was usually worn this way if given by a friend. If the heart points outwards on the right hand, you're not in a relationship but you would like to be in one. Finally, if it's pointing outwards on the left hand, you're definitely on the lookout for your future husband or wife!
10 Famous Claddagh Ring Fans
1. Julia Roberts
Legend has it that Julia Roberts and Daniel Day Lewis once had a brief romance, although whether it's true or not is debatable. Either way, she was spotted wearing a claddagh ring back in 1995, when the alleged romance was said to have occurred.
2. Jim Morrison
The enigmatic frontman of 1960s rock band The Doors was well known to have worn a claddagh ring. According to his lover Patricia Kennealy, they exchanged claddagh rings in a Celtic-inspired pagan commitment ceremony, with her wearing a silver one and him wearing a gold one. The ceremony is detailed in her book about their relationship and even even made it into Oliver Stone's 1991 movie about Morrison's life.
3. Liam Gallagher
One half of the Gallagher brothers and one quarter of the biggest British rock band of the 1990s, Oasis, it's not surprising that Liam Gallagher has been known to wear a claddagh ring; he does have Irish roots, after all. He was regularly spotted wearing his claddagh ring in 1996 when he was engaged to Patsy Kensit, and his brother Noel apparently has a ruby studded version too.
4. Sienna Miller
British actress Sienna Miller was gifted with a claddagh ring by her on-again, off-again lover Jude Law. During one of their rocky patches in 2006, she told paparazzi how devastated she was about their break-up, and vowed to continue wearing the ring with the heart pointing inwards because Jude still had her heart.
5. Dermot O'Leary
Popular television and radio presenter Dermot O'Leary, who's parents moved to the UK from Ireland, has a claddagh ring on his person at all times. Although he was born in England, Dermot has often said how proud he is of his Irish roots, and even holds dual British and Irish citizenship. His claddagh ring was given to him by his mother, and although he doesn't wear it on his hand, he always keeps it with him wherever he goes.
8. John F Kennedy.
When President John F. Kennedy and his wife Jackie visited Galway in 1963 they were presented with a pair of claddagh rings to honour Kennedy's Irish roots. He was photographed wearing the ring during the trip, so he must have liked it a lot!
9. Walt Disney
Walt Disney and his wife apparently purchased a pair of Claddagh rings during a trip to Ireland, and wore them often. Walt's statue in Disneyland even has the Claddagh ring included on his outstretched hand, BUT – shock horror, the heart is pointing outwards. Either someone made a grave mistake, or Walt didn't know how to wear his ring properly.
10. Kim Kardashian
According to media reports, when Kim Kardashian and Kanye West had part of their honeymoon in Ireland earlier this year, Kanye picked up an Irish Claddagh ring along the way to give to Kim as a keepsake of their time here. There haven't been any sightings of her wearing it yet, but with her every move so well publicized, we'll probably find out soon enough!
There are plenty of other celebrities who have taken a shine to the Irish Claddagh ring and naturally, a lot of them have Irish roots. Any American president with Irish ancestry is usually presented with a pair of rings at some point; Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan are just two who have been gifted with a set. Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco are other examples who were pleased to receive Claddaghs, although in this instance it was in the form of Claddagh Jewelry with a brooch and a set of cufflinks rather than an Irish Claddagh rings. Even some British royalty got in on the act; Queen Victoria received a ring in 1849 and later Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII also got a pair. From the entertainment industry, Mia Farrow, John Wayne, Bono, Maureen O'Hara, Gabriel Byrne and Bing Crosby are all mentioned in places as being proud claddagh ring wearers.
Don't forget to check out our full collection of Claddagh Jewelry. The perfect way to keep the rich Claddagh history alive. You never know, you may be mistaken for a celebrity when you wear it!