The Irish Claddagh Ring: A Symbol Of Friendship, Love, And Loyalty

The Irish Claddagh Ring: A Symbol Of Friendship, Love, And Loyalty


The Claddagh ring has been a symbol of love and unity for over 300 years. A great way to show one’s Irish heritage or simply express one’s love for another, the Claddagh ring’s classic design holds a special meaning that makes it an excellent gift for a loved one, significant other, friends, or family. 


The Claddagh Ring Symbolization

A traditional Claddagh ring is made up of three elements, and each has a special meaning:

  1. Two hands represent friendship
  2. A heart represents love
  3. A crown represents loyalty

This design is meant to represent the special bond between a couple, a family, or a friendship that cannot be broken. 


In addition, the way the ring is worn symbolizes the wearer’s relationship status:

  • When worn on the left hand, the ring indicates that the wearer is either married or engaged.
    • If the heart points towards the wrist, it is an indication that the wearer is married.
    • If the heart points away from the wrist, it is an indication that the wearer is engaged.
  • When worn on the right hand, the ring indicates that the wearer is in a relationship or single and open to love.
    • If the heart points towards the wrist, it is an indication that the wearer is in a relationship.
    • If the heart points away from the wrist, it is an indication that the wearer is single and possibly open to love.

Claddagh Ring Position Symbolization

Left Hand

Right Hand

Heart Points to Wrist

Married

In a Relationship

Heart Points Away from Wrist

Engaged

Single (Open to Love)



History And Origins Of The Claddagh Ring

The Claddagh ring design was likely based on pre-existing designs of “Fede” rings dating back to the Romans, which feature two hands interlocked to indicate an agreement to loyalty and love established by marriage. “Fede” is a shortened Italian phrase that translates to “hands in faith”. Fede rings were also popular in Europe during the Middle Ages. 

Below is an example of a 16th-17th century gold Fede ring featuring interlocking hands likely used to contract a marriage.

 


Although some uncertainty surrounds the exact origin of the Claddagh ring, it is most widely acknowledged that 17th-century Irish goldsmith Richard Joyce popularized the modernized design still worn today. Originally from the small fishing village of Claddagh (now Galway), Ireland, Richard Joyce was a fisherman who was taken into captivity when Algerian pirates captured his boat and enslaved him. He then was sold to a goldsmith who taught Joyce the art of goldsmithing. While in captivity, Joyce allegedly stole small pieces of gold over time until he was able to create a Claddagh ring he hoped to be able to give to his love, Margaret, who was still in Ireland. Joyce later made his way back to Ireland and presented the ring to Margaret to be worn as a wedding ring. The original ring still exists and was acquired in 2020 by the Galway City Museum in Ireland, which plans to display the ring in 2023. 

Shown above is the original Richard Joyce Claddagh ring!  Below you can see that it is inscribed with his maker’s mark RI and the initials of other owners of the ring. 



Tradition And Modernization Of The Claddagh Ring

Claddagh rings are often worn to pay homage to a person’s Irish heritage. As part of an Irish tradition, Claddagh rings were and are often still passed down from relatives (typically from mother to daughter) as a family heirloom. Upon passage of the ring, the relative would say, “With these hands, I give you my heart and crown it with my loyalty” to the recipient. 


Claddagh rings today are worn by both men and women as wedding rings and sometimes even friendship rings. Traditionally, Claddagh rings were simple silver or gold bands without gemstones or embellishments. Today, however, Claddagh rings often feature heart-shaped center stones, diamond accents, Celtic knots, and other extra embellishments. Using birthstones as a center stone is a popular choice that adds some extra personalization to these rings. The Claddagh design has even extended beyond rings and is now made into other jewelry such as necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.



Creating A One-of-a-Kind Claddagh Ring


Creating a Claddagh ring that is unique to the one you love is an excellent beginning for a long and beautiful relationship. Whether it is for a spouse or significant other, a friend, or a family member, we work with you to create a design that is as unique and meaningful as your bond to your loved one. Choose a birthstone center, engrave the Claddagh design on a band, add a Celtic knot, let us help you create your own special design to make the ring truly one-of-a-kind! Please see our collection of engagement rings at Staghead Designs to spark an idea for your unique Claddagh ring creation!

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