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What is a Claddagh Ring?

Jul 30, 2008
Although there are many Celtic designs used in making jewelry, one of the most interesting and popular is the Claddagh. This design most often used for rings is named after a small fishing which was located to the west of Galway, Ireland just outside the city walls. What makes the this ring unique is the fact that this village has exclusively used this traditional design for over 400 years.

How exactly this design came into being is still greatly debated as there are several stories that are regularly told, which is one of the reasons there is such fascination the world over. The most widely accepted however is the story of Richard Joyce of Galway. While Richard was on his way to the West Indies he was captured by an Algerian corsair who went on to sell him into slavery. In the Algiers he became the property of a wealthy Moorish goldsmith, who he ended up working with and learning from. Fourteen years later when William III of England became king he demanded the release of all British subjects who were detained in slavery in the Algiers which led to the release of Richard Joyce. In an effort to stop Richard Joyce from leaving the goldsmith offered him his daughters hand and half his property. To his disappointed Richard Joyce headed home. When he returned to Galway he immediately proposed to his love who had been waiting for his return. He is said to have made his proposal with a ring he made while he was waiting to return. This of course is the original Claddagh ring.

Another interesting element of this traditional ring is that it is used to symbolize not only love and loyalty but also friendship. The design itself is unmistakable as it features two hands clasping (or forming) a heart, which is then surmounted by a crown. The hands represent friendship, the heart represent love and the crown represents loyalty. A more modern version is on the market which no longer has the crown but it not nearly as popular as it does not have the traditional symbolism.

There are two expressions or phrases that are often associated with the ring. The first is "With my hands I give you my heart, and crown it with my love." The second is "Let love and friendship reign." Regardless of which one you chose to use or accept there is no doubting the symbolism attached to the ring.

The fact that the Claddagh ring has a specific design lends itself to another long accepted tradition with the use of this ring. If you wear the ring on your right hand with the crown turned inwards then you are letting others know that you are very much single and still looking for love. If you turn the crown so that it is turned out than you are already considering a love. If the ring is worn on the left hand with the crown turned inwards then you are most likely engaged and once you are married the crown is then turned outwards. The simple rule is that the heart goes closet to the body when a commitment is made.
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