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In this blog, we'll explore the history of the Claddagh ring and how it has endured for so many years as a favourite in Irish culture.

The Irish Claddagh Ring: A Symbol of Love and Loyalty

An instantly-recognisable symbol of Irish tradition, the Claddagh ring has become an enduring emblem of love, friendship, and loyalty around the world. Its distinctive design, rich history, and strong links to Ireland have made the Claddagh ring a must-have for anyone wanting to display their link to the Emerald Isle.

But while we all know the distinct design of the Claddagh symbol, few of us know the history behind it. How did the design come about, what does it mean, and how should the ring be worn? In this blog, we’ll explore its history and how it has endured for so many years as a favourite in Irish culture.

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The history of the Irish Claddagh ring

The Irish Claddagh ring’s origins can be traced back to the fishing village of Claddagh in Co. Galway, where it first emerged in the 17th century. The village, with its close-knit community of fishermen and their families, was where a member of the well-known Irish clan the Joyces, set sail before his life was changed forever.

According to legend, Richard Joyce, a local silversmith, was captured by pirates and sold into slavery in Algeria. His captor was a Moorish goldsmith, who honed Richard’s own skills and helped him to become a renowned craftsman. When Joyce was eventually freed, he returned to Ireland to his waiting sweetheart, and presented her with the very first gold Claddagh ring.

Design and meaning

The Claddagh ring’s design is a variation of the ‘fede’ ring, a European design that dates back to Roman times, showing two hands clasped in friendship or love. With the addition of the crown and heart, the Irish Claddagh ring’s meaning expands to three key elements: the heart represents love, the hands represent friendship, and the crown represents loyalty. ‘Let Love Reign’ was the accompanying phrase to the Claddagh ring, which was often used as a wedding or engagement ring.

How should a Claddagh ring be worn?

The Claddagh ring’s significance is further enhanced by how it is worn. Traditionally, if the ring is worn on the right hand with the heart facing outwards, it signifies that the wearer is open to love. When worn on the right hand with the heart facing inwards, it indicates that the wearer’s heart is already taken. If worn on the left hand, similar to a wedding or engagement ring, with the heart facing inwards, it represents a commitment to love and marriage.

The Claddagh ring’s enduring popularity

Over the centuries, the Claddagh ring has become an integral part of Irish culture, deeply rooted in tradition and heritage. It is well-loved around the world as a symbol of Irish tradition and love, both as an engagement ring and as a simple gift between loved ones.

The history of the Claddagh ring can be found throughout Ireland, but especially in its hometown of Galway. Many even visit the original makers of the Claddagh ring and the oldest jewelers in Ireland, Thomas Dillon’s, to buy their own ring as a souvenir of their trip.

Whether gifted to mark a special occasion or worn as a personal emblem of love, the Claddagh ring continues to capture the hearts of people around the world. As it is cherished and passed down through the generations, the Irish Claddagh ring stands as a testament to the unbreakable bonds of love and loyalty.

At Carroll’s, we know the importance of the timeless Claddagh symbol, and offer lots of different ways to wear it. From earrings to pendants to the iconic ring, and forged in different metals and stones, you’re sure to find your very own way to display the Claddagh from our range of jewelry.

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