Romance, Loyalty & Craftsmanship: The 400-Year History Of Claddagh Rings

Symbolism of love

Ireland is enriched by the multitudes of symbols we hold close to our hearts especially that of the Claddagh. Most Commonly worn in the form of a Ring but can also be worn in other jewellery pieces this symbol is centered around the heart and its symbol of love. 

 

“A gift of love, Crafted in Ireland”

The whisper of romance lingers within every Claddagh. A gift of love, crafted in Ireland, it echoes a tale of devotion retold over the centuries. Once upon a time, so the story goes, a young sailor Richard Joyce was captured and sold into slavery by Algerian Corsairs while en route to the West Indies. After 14 years he was released as King William III sent an ambassador to Algeria to demand the release of all British slaves. 

Far from his native land, he held the memory of his sweetheart deep in his heart. He never forgot her. Years later, on his safe return to Galway, his gift to her was a Claddagh ring he had made whilst in slavery. Forged with the skills he learned during his imprisonment, it was a token of his enduring love. Rumour has it that the earliest Claddagh rings bare his mark

 

The Origin of Claddagh

The design and customs associated with the Claddagh originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, located just outside the old city walls of Galway, now part of Galway City. Dating back to the 1700s however it was not called the Claddagh ring until after the 1830’s. The Claddagh’s distinctive design features two hands clasping a heart, and usually surmounted by a crown.

Throughout the ages it has become a symbol of Irish culture and each generation has its own meaning for the Claddagh. At first the Claddagh meant Love, Loyalty and Friendship but through the ages the meaning has changed to Mother, Daughter and Grandmother. Some religious groups believe that the Claddagh ring means Father, Son and Holy Trinity.

 

The Meaning of Claddagh

Throughout the ages, it has become a symbol of Irish culture and each generation has its own meaning for the Claddagh. At first, the Claddagh meant Love, Loyalty and Friendship but with time this evolved, the meaning has changed to Mother, Daughter and Grandmother. Some religious groups believe that the Claddagh ring means Father, Son and Holy Trinity.

The elements of this symbol are often said to correspond to the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown). Claddagh rings are often used as friendship rings but are most commonly used as engagement/wedding rings. The Claddagh is handed down mother-to-daughter or grandmother-to-granddaughter.

 

How to Wear Claddagh Rings

There are many meanings to how the wearer wears the Claddagh ring and only those who know or study the history of the Claddagh will know the following:

  • On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips: the wearer is single and maybe looking for love.
  • On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist: the wearer is in a relationship.
  • On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips: the wearer is engaged.
  • On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist: the wearer is married.

 

“With these hands, I give you my heart and I crown it with my love”

This is due to the Claddagh ring being used as a secret engagement ring. When your sweetheart was ready to propose he would propose with the Claddagh ring and many people would not know that you were engaged but that did not matter because you knew. The Claddagh holds the memory of true love that can last forever. 

You can add your own chapter to the story even now by how you wear it. So remember – On your right hand with its heart facing outwards, it shows that your heart is not yet taken. Turn its heart inwards and you’ll let admirers know that love is a possibility.

But if you wear it on your left hand, with its heart turned inwards towards your own, there can be no doubt. It tells the world: two hearts have joined together forever. Wear it and be part of a never-ending love story, or gift it to your daughter or granddaughter and follow this great Irish tradition.

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