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Origin of the Claddagh & How To Wear an Irish Claddagh Ring

Classic Gold Claddagh Ring

 

Do you wear an Irish Claddagh Ring? Considering purchasing one for yourself or as a gift?

Read on to find out all you need to know about the Irish Claddagh Ring.  You’ll also discover the 4 different ways to wear one of the world’s most iconic designs.

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 as a symbol of commitment to three beautiful sentiments.

For centuries couples have exchanged the famous Claddagh ring as an engagement or wedding ring.  The three beautiful symbols make the perfect rings to offer your loved one. The symbols for love, loyalty & friendship are represented in the heart, the crown, and the hands.

The original Claddagh Rings have been dated back to the 17th century. It originated in the little village of Claddagh in County Galway, Ireland. There are a number of stories that claim the origin of the Claddagh ring.

The most plausible being that of the Joyce family. It is said that Richard Joyce was a silversmith working in the 1700’s. His initials (maker’s mark) are on the earliest known surviving Claddagh ring.

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 taught him the trade.

In 1689, Joyce was released when William III sent an ambassador to Algeria to demand the release of all British subjects. Upon hearing this, his captor offered Joyce half of his wealth and his only daughter in marriage to remain in Algeria.

Joyce declined the offer, eager to return to his native Galway. On returning to Galway, Joyce was quick to establish himself as a goldsmith. It was during this time, it is believed he created one of the world’s most famous designs, the Irish Claddagh ring.

 

Claddagh Ring Symbols of love

Browse our collection of  Handcrafted Irish Claddagh Rings

 

Another popular story also links the Claddagh to the Joyce name. Native Galway woman Margaret Joyce is thought 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 died, 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.

 

Irish Claddagh ring

 

21st Century Claddagh Ring

In the 21st century, the Irish Claddagh Ring design has evolved and changed. Various interpretations of the original design allow men and women.

They are exchanged as a ring of meaning and sentiment. They signify a special connection to these three sentiments, to the island of Ireland and mark special occasions.

The enduring symbols of love, loyalty, and friendship are as important today as they were to the original goldsmith that crafted the very first Claddagh ring.

Whether you are a fan of the classic or prefer a more contemporary take, these gorgeous heirlooms can be worn, enjoyed and loved by everyone.

What is the correct way to wear an Irish Claddagh Ring?

Whatever history you believe to be true, the fact remains that the Claddagh is the ultimate symbol of love and unity.

Long before social media updates, people wore the famous Claddagh design to express relationship status. Updating whether you are in a relationship was even quicker and easier with the Claddagh ring.

 

 

Modern Claddagh Rings

 

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Left hand with the point of the heart pointing away from hand: the wearer is engaged or in a lifelong partnership.
  4. Left hand with the point of the heart pointing to the hand: the wearer is married!

No one really knows when and where this tradition emerged. Many are not even aware of the ways to wear your ring.

And so to end with a gentle word of caution, the four rules on how to wear your Claddagh ring should be taken with a grain of salt.

 

About us: Claddagh Design was founded by award-winning silversmith Eileen Moylan.  The Claddagh Design collection offers classic and contemporary Claddagh rings, all handcrafted in Ireland.

Explore Eileen’s Irish Ring Collection today or get in touch to begin creating your dream Bespoke Claddagh Ring

 

 

What does the Irish Claddagh Ring mean to you?

Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear!

52 Responses to Origin of the Claddagh & How To Wear an Irish Claddagh Ring

  1. Tracey October 14, 2017 at 11:35 pm #

    What does it mean if a man wears his wedding ring but on his right hand has a claddagh ring worn the way which shows he is single- ie crown facing towards his chest, pointed part of heart facing out?
    Thank you.

    • Paula Curtin October 16, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

      Hi Tracey,
      Thanks for your message!
      The heart turned out and away from the wearer is meant to symbolize open to love and the wearer is not in a relationship.
      However, many people are not aware of this tradition so, of course, we always take it with a grain of salt 🙂
      In relation to the finger a wedding ring is worn, again there are no firm rules on this and varies between countries and culture.
      Hope this helps!
      Paula @ Claddagh Design

      • Patricia June 17, 2021 at 11:26 pm #

        I have a most beautiful claddagh ring which my husband bought me for our 40th wedding anniversary on our last trip to Ireland.

        • Paula @ Claddagh Design June 18, 2021 at 8:09 am #

          That’s so sweet Patricia. Many thanks for sharing! The Claddagh ring is a gorgeous way to mark an occasion. It couldn’t be more perfect than for a wedding anniversary.x

    • Norma May 14, 2020 at 3:11 am #

      Can a single woman wear the Claddaugh Ring?

      • Paula @ Claddagh Design May 25, 2020 at 2:28 pm #

        Hi Norma, That’s a really good question. There is absolutely no reason a single person (or anyone else for that matter) cannot wear a Claddagh ring. At it’s core, the Claddagh symbolizes a commitment to love, loyalty and friendship, whether you wear one yourself or offer to a family member, loved one or friend. I hope this helps!

    • Jillian October 4, 2020 at 6:47 pm #

      It might also mean that he’s widowed

      • Rachel mulveen February 15, 2021 at 8:09 pm #

        Hi i am wearing my claddgh ring as my engagement ring now am i a finance to my boyfriend now engaged.

    • Rachel mulveen December 6, 2020 at 9:18 pm #

      My claddgh ring mean a lot to me because I gave one to my boyfriend and he told me he has a friendship ring for me i wearing my claddgh ring on the left hand side of my finger it was a lovely gift from my mum also but I am from Ireland and I am looking forward to seeing the time my boyfriend 20 years together now true love happy. I love looking at my claddgh ring on the left hand side of the finger outside of me

  2. Aoife October 28, 2017 at 8:50 pm #

    Hi Tracey,

    If you’re in the United States, and have encountered a man wearing both a wedding ring on the left hand and the Claddagh facing out on the right, assuming he knows the tradition, then the meaning can best be answered by asking him. BUT, also take his answer with a grain of salt, be sure to guard your heart.

  3. Josh May 18, 2018 at 8:35 am #

    Open relationship, is allowed to play the field.

  4. Colleen McLaren April 5, 2019 at 5:19 am #

    I was always told that if you wore the ring on your left hand facing out, it meant you were a widow. Facing in- married. Right hand- same as you have here. Made sense to me, as it covered all stages of our life. Single, dating, married and widowed. The circle of life, if you will.

    • Paula @ Claddagh Design April 9, 2019 at 1:52 pm #

      Thanks so much for sharing, that’s really interesting Colleen! Since we published this post, we’ve heard a number of different ways people wear their Claddagh ring. As the tradition of how to wear a Claddagh has spread by word of mouth, it seems how we choose to wear our Claddagh and what it represents to us is different for everyone!

      • Jennifer O Brien August 27, 2019 at 2:29 am #

        I was always told that your mother had to give you the ring not a man. Is this true

        • Paula @ Claddagh Design August 27, 2019 at 1:33 pm #

          Hi Jennifer,

          Yes, there is definitely a strong tradition of mothers gifting Claddagh rings to their daughters. In saying that, there are also other traditions that surround the Claddagh.

          Couples and friends often exchange Claddagh rings as a commitment ring. Interestingly, we’ve been seeing an increasing no. of people ordering Claddaghs from our workshop just for themselves! Sometimes worn to honor our Irish heritage/celebrate a special connection to Ireland. Other times, simply as a symbol of appreciation for 3 beautiful sentiments – love, friendship and loyalty in life.

          Hope this helps 🙂

      • Rachel mulveen August 8, 2020 at 1:03 pm #

        I gave my boyfriend a claddgh ring from me I have one also what did I mean to my boyfriend only from me.

        • Paula @ Claddagh Design August 17, 2020 at 1:00 pm #

          That’s really nice to hear Rachel! Claddagh rings are often offered as a symbol of commitment to love, loyalty and friendship. They can also be worn or given as a gift to represent the pride the wearer takes in their heritage.

          • Rachel mulveen February 13, 2021 at 2:09 pm #

            Thanks you for your reply i am just wearing my claddgh ring 💍 as my engagement ring now my boyfriend has a friendship ring hiding very well i have never seen it before the ring he has only i gave my boyfriend my ring size also I come from a jewellery family but I don’t understand what a friendship ring 💍 all he told me that it is a friendship ring in a box 💍 nothing else i never ask him about the ring 💍

    • Anna May 4, 2019 at 2:14 pm #

      Is it bad luck to buy your own claddagh ring?

      • Paula @ Claddagh Design May 7, 2019 at 10:55 am #

        Hi Anna, not at all. Lots of our customers buy Claddagh rings for themselves, either to celebrate their heritage or simply because they love what the Claddagh symbols stand for 🙂 Hope this helps, Paula 🙂

  5. Karen Vaught April 18, 2019 at 2:40 pm #

    I am married and wear my traditional wedding ring set on my left hand. However I do wear my Claddagh on my right hand with the point of the heart facing in. I also wear it to represent my Irish heritage.

    • Joe May 7, 2019 at 5:21 am #

      I love Irish heritage!

  6. JLINA April 24, 2019 at 8:56 am #

    I didn’t have the opportunity to get married to the love of my life before he passed away from brain cancer but we always considered ourselves to be soulmates and didn’t need a piece of paper to show it. I had a ring made with a moldavite gemstone inside the heart of my ring after he passed. I wear it on my left ring finger along with a wedding band to represent our infinite love but should the point of the heart be facing my hand and heart or turned away from me? I felt like I should wear it facing my heart to represent my never ending love for him yet if we were legally married I would be a widow? I have no intention to date anyone else, my only concern now is raising our 2 year old son and made him a promise that no other man would ever take his place in our son’s life as a father figure. My heart only belongs to him and since his passing I took a vow of celibacy and became a minister as well as a doctor of divinity and metaphysics, hence the moldavite gemstone in the heart of my ring. Anyways my question being whether I am correctly wearing my ring. He has Irish heritage and I do not want to disrespect the traditions or anything regarding him.

    • Paula @ Claddagh Design August 27, 2019 at 1:55 pm #

      Firstly, I am so sorry to hear of your tragic loss. I hope you and your son are doing ok! On the tradition of the Claddagh ring, no-one is quite sure where the tradition of how to wear a Claddagh ring all started. So I personally wouldn’t be overly concerned about disrespecting the tradition. For me and many others, the Claddagh symbolism of eternal love, loyalty and friendship is what really matters and makes wearing your Claddagh for him so special. In your case, I might suggest wearing on your left hand with the base of the heart pointing towards the hand. This is said to represent marriage or a lifelong commitment. Coming from an Irish person, I think wearing this ring for him is a beautiful gesture whatever way you choose to wear it. Take care x

    • Bubby June 15, 2021 at 4:42 pm #

      Great site and information on how to wear the Claddagh Ring. My wife just got me my first one; it has an enameled green stone for the heart. My ancestry is 27.3% Irish, Scottish, Welsh. Thank you!

      • Paula @ Claddagh Design June 15, 2021 at 10:46 pm #

        That’s great to hear Bubby! A Claddagh ring is such a thoughtful gift. I hope it brings you lots of joy to wear 😀

  7. Terry & Marlene June 29, 2019 at 2:57 am #

    My wife and I just purchased Cladddagh rings
    We will wear them on our right hands because we have worn our wedding rings on our left hands for 46 years

    • Paula @ Claddagh Design June 29, 2019 at 12:51 pm #

      Thanks Terry. I have to admit, I don’t follow these rules when wearing my Claddagh either:) Whether it’s worn as a symbol of heritage or for the Claddagh sentiments, I think that’s what’s most important.

    • Angela Moon August 22, 2019 at 4:16 am #

      JLINA, I am so sorry to read of your life partner’s passing.
      I have been searching for the right way to wear my ring also, since my husband passed this last May of this year. Also from cancer.
      I read that wearing it with the heart facing towards the fingertips, on your wedding finger can mean that you are a widow. I choose to wear it that way.
      Again I am so very sorry for your loss.
      Sincerely,
      Angela

      • Paula @ Claddagh Design August 27, 2019 at 2:03 pm #

        Hi Angela, thanks so much for sharing and our sincere condolences for your loss. Whatever way you wear your Claddagh ring, it’s a beautiful gesture to wear this ring for him. Hope you are doing well x

  8. Khatelin June 30, 2019 at 1:16 pm #

    My mother gave me my claddagh ring as a gift. I never take it off. I am now planning to personalize it by adding a garnet stone. The ring means a lot to me, so I wear it no matter what.

    • Paula @ Claddagh Design July 1, 2019 at 5:23 pm #

      That’s lovely to hear. It’s traditions and stories like these that make the Claddagh extra special and I love that you are putting your own touch on it. Thanks for sharing Khatelin!

  9. Keith Allen July 7, 2019 at 8:12 am #

    I’ve just received my Claddagh ring and couldn’t be happier with it.
    Mine represents my Irish roots and ancestry, I’m an Australian descended from the houses of Mahoney, Allen and D’Altera (French Huguenots) of County Cork.

    • Paula @ Claddagh Design July 18, 2019 at 6:08 pm #

      Glad to hear you love your Claddagh ring Keith. I think that’s a really nice nod to your ancestors and the journey they must have endured. Both Allen and Mahoney are still common names here in Cork. Sites such as the Huguenot burial ground in French Church Street (Huguenot quarters) and Triskel Christchurch are also still standing. Fascinating history. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Sadhbh August 6, 2019 at 4:03 am #

    When after a breakup should you turn your claddagh ring back?

    • Paula @ Claddagh Design August 15, 2019 at 6:19 pm #

      Hi Sadhbh, thanks for getting in touch! Yes, generally people who follow/are aware of the tradition will turn their ring around after a breakup. Then again, there is nothing set in stone with these rules and it’s also quite common for people to wear their Claddagh ring in whatever way they like the best! Hope this helps 🙂

  11. Sylvia November 18, 2019 at 11:04 pm #

    I was recently given a Claddagh ring by a niece who is newly united with our family.. She had bought it for herself while on a trip to Scotland . Ironically, she had no idea that my mother was raised in Scotland ..just a little irony. She is actually my husbands niece ,but we formed a very loving bond immeadliatly and she wanted to give me something belonging to her. I love it and i wear it on my right pinky, with the point facing out because I like people to get a full view of it.

    • Paula @ Claddagh Design November 19, 2019 at 5:57 pm #

      That is really lovely Sylvia and great to hear you have made this special bond. Thank you so much for sharing the story behind your Claddagh ring!

  12. Jacinta November 30, 2019 at 7:32 pm #

    I heard about Claddagh rings today and I love the ideas behind the symbolism of them. The idea of the hands around the heart was explained as being the hands of prayer to ask God to be at the centre of the marriage. I don’t have any Irish connections. Would Irish people take offence if I were to wear one?

    • Paula @ Claddagh Design December 3, 2019 at 2:43 pm #

      Hi Jacinta, not at all there would be no offense taken. The Claddagh symbols are a really nice sentiment representing love, loyalty and friendship and many of our customer have no connection to Ireland. Hope this helps!

  13. Andrea J. December 2, 2019 at 2:22 pm #

    I am American and am familiar with the Claddagh ring growing up in Chicago in a predominantly Irish neighborhood. I have been dating a man from Ireland for the past 5 months and up until recently he has worn his Claddagh ring on his right hand with the point away from his hand. I was a little confused by this as I thought that meant someone was single. However over the weekend he was very sick and after taking care of him I noticed his ring is now turned around. I’m just curious as to how, traditionally, significant this is to him. Is it a big decision to turn one’s ring? I would appreciate any insight. Thank you!

    • Paula @ Claddagh Design December 3, 2019 at 6:06 pm #

      Hi Andrea,

      As the tradition goes the point facing in towards the hand is said to mean the wearer is in a serious relationship. With the point facing away from the hand, they are not in a serious relationship.
      However, to complicate things further many people will simply wear their Claddagh ring whatever way it goes on or pay no heed to the tradition at all 😀
      So whether it was a big decision for him to turn his ring around, very much depends on the individual.
      Sorry a bit of a non-answer but hope it helps in someway!

  14. Elizabeth Kelly May 19, 2020 at 11:23 pm #

    I read that if you wore your ring upside down, heart tip toward wearer, you’re happy with your relationship and if you wore it upside right with heart tip away from wearer you’re unhappy with your relationship. Also, if wearing a pin or pendant, upside down is good! And when boarding a ship, back in the day, if you wore it upside down on your hat you were let on board the ship, having the symbol of fellow Irish sailer.

    • Paula @ Claddagh Design August 17, 2020 at 12:53 pm #

      That’s really interesting, thanks for sharing Elizabeth. I hadn’t come across this before! I will have to check this out 🙂

  15. courtney May 25, 2020 at 11:47 pm #

    hi , i’ve seen these claddagh rings and they look amazing , my grandad and nan ( mums parents ) are irish but my mum doesn’t speak much of it as we live in britain and she’s had a very busy and not the best life , i am considering buying a claddagh ring but not sure if it’s okay for me to wear it as i’m not sure what % of irish i am or if i can even class as irish , can anyone help ?

    • Paula @ Claddagh Design June 23, 2020 at 9:44 pm #

      Hi Courtney, it’s lovely to hear you have a family connection to Ireland. Interestingly, that’s a question we often get asked. If it helps at all, I don’t think how long ago your family lived in Ireland should be a concern. The Claddagh ring is often worn as a symbol of heritage but it is also a beautiful symbol of 3 sentiments to live by – love, loyalty, and friendship. As with any special piece of jewellery, it is what it symbolizes for you. Sorry, that is probably a little long-winded but I hope it goes some way in answering your question. 🙂

  16. Sparrow October 28, 2020 at 9:11 pm #

    Any recommendations for how to wear if one is a committed bachelor/spinster – that is, if one is not in a relationship, and also not open to being in one?

    • Paula @ Claddagh Design November 2, 2020 at 1:19 pm #

      Hi Sparrow, as far as I am aware, there isn’t actually a specific tradition for the happy single person not looking for a relationship. So, any of the above apart from 2 will work perfectly! 🙂

  17. Emer November 19, 2020 at 8:07 pm #

    Hi my partner got me a claddagh ring made 19 years ago as an engagement ring got engaged Christmas eve 2001 I didn’t know and I won’t change it for the world people still ask me where I got it after 19years as there is no other one like it I still feel so lucky to have him and such a beautiful ring

    • Paula @ Claddagh Design November 26, 2020 at 7:22 pm #

      Emer, thanks so much for sharing your story! It’s lovely that your ring is completely unique and he chose it for you. It would be hard to find any other style of engagement ring that carries as much meaning as the Claddagh.

  18. Janie February 28, 2021 at 5:18 am #

    Hi
    I brought mine in the town my Irish Ancestors came from and wear it in love, friend and loyalty of that side of the family. As I have family members from that side of the family I am close with.
    Should I be wearing it any special way for this reason??

  19. Cheryl D March 1, 2021 at 3:22 am #

    I wear my claddagh on my right hand, with the heart facing inward, to symbolize not that I’m in a relationship, but that I have feelings that are not currently reciprocated.

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