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Irish Claddagh Rings: What do they mean?

Irish Claddagh Rings: What do they mean? Picture 1

02 February 2016

Ireland is, without a doubt, a country filled with folklore and traditions. Celtic designs are known world-wide and often incorporated into jewellery designs. The traditional Irish Claddagh ring is perhaps one of the best-known Irish jewellery designs, but where does it come from, and what does it mean?

It was an Irish fishing village in Galway that gave birth to the Claddagh ring and although this area of Ireland has produced these rings continuously since the 1700’s, the name “Claddagh Ring” was only used after the 1830’s. In true Irish fashion, legends detailing the history of the ring design abound, but stories about a Galway silversmith named Richard Joyce dominate the records.

According to Wikipedia, Joyce left his town to work in the West Indies, intending to marry his love when he returned. However his ship was captured and he was sold as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith. In Algiers, with his new master, he was trained in his craft. When William III became king, he demanded the Moors release all British prisoners. As a result, Richard Joyce was set free.

The goldsmith had such a great amount of respect for Richard Joyce that he offered Joyce his daughter and half his wealth if Joyce stayed, but he denied his offer and returned home to marry his love who awaited his return. During his time with the Moors he forged a ring as a symbol of his love for her. Upon his return he presented her with the ring and they were married.

The three elements of the Claddagh ring represent love (the heart), friendship (the hands) and loyalty (the crown). Claddagh rings are overwhelmingly used as engagement and wedding rings amongst the Irish, but mothers often present them to daughters when they come of age.

It’s difficult to find any authentic records revealing any meaning in which way the ring is worn on the finger, but the brilliantly titled book “The Feckin’ Book of Everything Irish”, authored by Colin Murphy and Donal O’Dea, provides this interpretation about the wearer’s romantic status:

1. On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips, the wearer is single and may be looking for love.

2. On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist, the wearer is in a relationship.

3. On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips, the wearer is engaged.

4. On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist, the wearer is married. 

Katannuta Diamonds is able to manufacture a wide variety of Claddagh ring styles within South Africa, from plain traditional rings in silver or gold, to more intricate designs incorporating diamonds and other gemstones. Contact us today regarding your very own traditional Claddagh ring.

Kewyords: ring, claddagh, rsquo, joyce, irish, wearer