The Claddagh ring’s origins are believed to lie in the small fishing village of Claddagh in county Galway, on Ireland’s west coast in the 17th century. Its distinctive design is associated with the Joyce family, one of the Tribes of Galway.
Legend has it that fisherman Richard Joyce, shortly before he was to be married, was captured by pirates and sold into slavery in Algeria. His captor was a Moorish goldsmith, who sensed his potential and trained Richard in his craft. In time, Richard Joyce became a highly proficient master craftsman.
All through his training, he had thought of his sweetheart at home, and he created the first Claddagh ring, with a heart for love, a pair of hands for friendship and a crown for loyalty and fidelity. In 1689, all subjects of King William III who were held in slavery were freed. Richard Joyce refused his former master’s offer of half his fortune and his daughter’s hand in marriage and returned to Ireland. He found his sweetheart had waited for him, and he presented her with the ring he had made and they were married.
Claddagh Ring Meaning
The Claddagh ring is a variation of the ‘fede’ ring, a European design that dates back to Roman times, showing two hands clasped in friendship or love. The word fede is derived from the Italian phrase of hands clasped in faith, ‘mani in fede’.
Used for betrothal and marriage, they gained prominence during the medieval period, and have been used through to modern times. Incorporating a crown and a heart with the clasped hands design, the Claddagh ring symbolises love, friendship and loyalty. ‘Let Love Reign’ was the phrase associated with this motif, which made it a beautifully romantic wedding ring design, and these rings became family heirlooms that would be passed down usually from mother to eldest daughter on her wedding day.
Emblem Of Irish Heritage
The Great Famine of 1845-1849 saw an exodus of Irish people, leaving their beloved country on ships in vast numbers, many never to return home again. As they spread across the world, taking with them the stories, songs and culture of home as they settled, the romantic story of the Claddagh was passed down through the generations. Along with its defining characteristics of friendship, love and loyalty, the Claddagh has also become an enduring symbol of Irish identity.
How To Wear A Claddagh Ring
Tradition dictates that there is a very distinctive way to wear the Claddagh ring. If the wearer wears the ring on the left hand, with the crown pointing inward, towards the fingernail, this indicates that they are in love, or married. It is common in Ireland for the Claddagh ring to be used as a wedding band. If the ring is on the left hand with the heart facing outward this denotes engagement, the Claddagh ring has also become a popular ring choice for engagement rings.
If the ring is worn on the right hand with the heart pointing to the fingernail shows that the wearer is unattached. When worn on the right hand with the heart facing outward, the Claddagh ring indicates that the person's heart is still open and they are still looking for their match.
Birthstone Claddagh Rings
Wear a Claddagh birthstone ring in sterling silver to celebrate this classic Irish tradition! The birthstone Claddagh ring is perfect if you love Claddagh rings but want something unique. Your Irish roots are reflected in a personalised way while a touch of gemstone glamour is added.
Featuring your own birthstone, this stunning ring commemorates friendship, loyalty, and love. Symbolism and birthstone make this an exquisite birthday gift for a friend, sister, mother, wife, girlfriend or for yourself.
The popularity of the Claddagh is enduring, and a wide variety of jewellery is available bearing this motif, from traditional rings to modern necklaces and earrings.
Browse our Claddagh rings for men and women in Ireland in our Claddagh ring collection.