The Story Behind the Irish Claddagh Ring
The Claddagh is a traditional Irish ring. It can be worn as a symbol of heritage or simply to express a commitment to three beautiful sentiments. For centuries, couples have exchanged the famous Claddagh ring as engagement or wedding rings.
The symbols stand for love, loyalty & friendship which are represented by the heart, the crown, and the hands. Early examples of Claddagh rings date back to the 17th century.
The design originated in County Galway and is believed to have been popular in the little village of Claddagh. There are a number of stories surrounding the origin of the Claddagh ring with the most plausible being that of the Joyce family.
It is said that Richard Joyce was the Galway goldsmith to create the first Claddagh ring. His initials (maker's mark) have been found on some of the earliest surviving Claddagh rings.
The story goes that Joyce was captured by Algerians and sold on as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith. The goldsmith needed an apprentice. Noticing Joyce's talent, he began teaching him the trade.
In 1689, William III sent an ambassador to Algeria demanding the release of all British subjects and Joyce was released. Upon hearing the news, his captor is said to have offered Joyce half of his wealth and his only daughter in marriage to remain in Algeria.
Joyce declined, eager to return to his native Galway. On his return, Joyce was quick to establish himself as a goldsmith in Ireland. It was during this time, he is believed to have created one of the world's most famous designs, the Irish Claddagh ring.
Another popular story also links the Claddagh to the Joyce name. Native Galway woman Margaret Joyce is said to have inherited her wealth from her husband Domingo de Rona. Her husband was a wealthy Spanish merchant who traded with the city of Galway.
After her husband's death, she returned to Galway and used her fortune to build bridges in Galway and Sligo. She later went on to marry the Mayor of Galway, Oliver Og French, in 1596. It is said the first Irish Claddagh ring was dropped into her lap by an eagle in reward for her good work and charity.
Browse our collection of Handcrafted Irish Claddagh Rings
21st Century Claddagh Ring
Over the past two centuries, the design of the Irish Claddagh Ring has evolved. Today, various interpretations of the original design are worn by men and women all over the world.
The beautiful Claddagh ring is worn for it's sentiments but can also be worn as a symbol of special connections to Ireland. The Irish are renowned for oral traditions in storytelling.
Naturally, stories and superstitions have emerged over the years. However, we will leave 'dispelling myths' for another blogpost. After almost 20 years making Claddagh rings, we've learned that these pieces are more than just a ring to the person that wears them. Each piece tells a personal story, unique to the wearer.
The love, loyalty, and friendship offers an emotional connection to the past, present and future. A special ring that can and should be worn, enjoyed and loved by all.
What is the correct way to wear an Irish Claddagh Ring?
Whatever the Claddagh ring means to you, it remains one of Ireland's most enduring symbols of connection, love and unity. Long before social media updates came along, the Claddagh design was worn as a public expression relationship status.
One question we often get asked is how to wear this ring correctly. To make it easy, we've added a quick guide that should help.
4 Ways to Wear Your Claddagh
Here's our easy four-step guide on how to wear your Claddagh ring to show your relationship status.
- Right hand with the point of the heart facing towards the hand: The heart is turned in towards the wearer meaning their heart is taken and they are in a relationship.
- Right hand with the point of the heart away from the hand: The heart is turned out away from the wearer meaning their heart is open to love and they are not in a relationship.
- Left hand with the point of the heart pointing away from hand: the wearer is engaged or in a lifelong partnership.
- Left hand with the point of the heart pointing to the hand: the wearer is married!
Many people that own Claddagh rings wear them in any direction they like. So, just a gentle word of caution, the rules on how to wear a Claddagh ring should be taken with a grain of salt :)
About us: Claddagh Design was founded by award-winning silversmith Eileen Moylan in 2010. Based in County Cork, Eileen and her team design and create handcrafted Claddagh rings in both classic and contemporary styles. Each design is made by hand using time honoured techniques. Once complete, every ring is sent to be hallmarked by the Irish Assay Office on the historic grounds of Dublin Castle. Today, Eileen delivers her unique Claddagh rings worldwide
What does the Irish Claddagh Ring mean to you?
Let us know in the comments below. We'd love to hear!