The design of the classic Claddagh Ring, also known as a faith or promise ring, is one that is recognizable world wide. It is a traditional Irish ring with an important meaning; the hands denote friendship and togetherness, holding a heart which signifies love and topped with a crown which stands for loyalty. Though certainly a beautiful piece of jewelry, the Irish Claddagh ring is a lot more than an accessory. It bears a romantic history (though much disputed) and symbolizes everlasting love and friendship.
There are two expressions that are associated with the ring: "With my hands, I give you my heart" and "Let love and friendship reign forever".
Origins Of The Claddagh
Irish culture heavily relies on mythology and stories passed down through the centuries and the origin of Claddagh ring is no different. The origins of the ring are said to date back to the 17th century to a small fishing village known as Claddagh, located on the Galway coast.
The story is one of romance and stars a protagonist named Richard Joyce who is captured along with his shipmates by Algerian pirates. The ship he was on was bound for the plantations of the West Indies and through his misfortunes, the Irishman is sold as a servant to a Moorish goldsmith. The goldsmith goes on to train Richard in the craft, but in 1689, Amnesty is declared and he becomes a free man.
The Moorish master was stunned by the Irishman's talent, and he offers him half of everything he owns. In the bargain, he is willing to give Richard the hand of his only daughter. Though the offer was a good one, Richard feels his heart still belongs in Ireland.
Richard goes back to his fishing village in Claddagh where ends up marrying his sweetheart. To earn a living, he opens up a goldsmith shop where the first Claddagh rings are produced. Each of the rings that Richard makes bears his initials of RJ.
CLADDAGH SYMBOLISM - HOW DO YOU WEAR YOURS?
While Claddagh rings are sometimes used as friendship rings, or given by mothers to daughters, they are most commonly used as engagement and wedding rings. The way in which a Claddagh ring is worn can give some insight as to the wearer's relationship status:
On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips, the wearer is single and may be looking for love. This is known as wearing the Claddagh with your heart open.
On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist, the wearer is in a relationship. This is known as wearing the Claddagh to show that someone has captured your heart.
- 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.
If you choose a Claddagh Ring as your engagement or wedding band, the direction of the heart will be reversed during the wedding ceremony.
Variations On The Origin Of Claddagh Rings
Irish history is full of mythology, and sometimes, fact and fiction can be mixed together. The above story isn't the only variation on the origin of the rings. Another story tells of a woman named Margaret Joyce who is married to Domingo de Rona, a rich Spanish merchant. Her husband dies, but not without bequeathing Margaret all of his riches. She sets to work and uses the money for good and charitable causes. Her reward is given by an eagle when the Claddagh ring is mysteriously dropped in her lap.
Some stories will ultimately ascribe the origins of the rings to ancient Celtic times where mythology was ever present. However, the most down-to-earth story attributes the rings to different religious references. The crown, for example, is said to represent the Father. The right and left hands are respectively standing in for the Son and the Holy Ghost.
The tales regarding the ring's origins are endless, and the magic lies in you believing whichever story you prefer. The one thing that can never be disputed is the popularity of these rings. It is a symbol of love, affection, and fidelity recognized worldwide.