By Rachel Butler The Claddagh ring is a beautiful piece of Irish jewellery that is now famous around the world. However, this is so much more than just a pretty ring, the Claddagh ring has a deep Irish history and know that when you are wearing one there is meaning attached to it. Firstly, let’s look at the design of the ring and what is symbolises. The ring represents love, loyalty and friendship. The heart is for love, the two clasping hands around it is for friendship and the crown on top is for loyalty. Completely unlike any other ring in the world, there are different ways you can wear this ring and each one means something different. So, think carefully about what way you choose to wear it! If you wear it on your right hand with the heart facing outwards, then you are single and open to finding love, on the opposite side of that if you wear it on your right hand with the heart facing inwards then you are in a relationship. Wearing it on your left hand with the heart facing outwards, you are engaged and if it’s on the left with the heart facing in, you are married. The origin of the Claddagh ring comes from a little fishing village just outside of Galway city, its name coming from An Cladach in Irish which means “stony shore”. This beautiful village is where the Corrib river opens out to the Atlantic Ocean, and centuries ago it was an extremely successful and independent fishing village. The area had its own king, and thrived off trade with Spain. Even though there are a few different tales about how the Claddagh ring came about, it was most certainly created in or around the village of Claddagh. Each year a blessing of the bay festival takes place in which each boat is blessed at the beginning of the herring season. This tradition dates back to 1488, and is still celebrated today. There are two stories which are believed by most to be the most plausible as to the creation of the Claddagh ring. The first is of a young woman called Margret Joyce, who married a wealthy Spaniard called Domingo de Rona in the 16th century and when he died, he left half of his fortune to her. She decided to use this new found wealth to build bridges in Galway and the surrounding counties of the Connacht area. It is said that one day an eagle dropped a Claddagh on to her lap as a reward for her good deeds. The second story is also of a member of the Joyce tribe from Galway. This one tells of a young man called Richard Joyce who was a sailor in the 17th century and was captured by pirates and sold to Algerians, while he was setting sail for the plantations of the West Indies. While here he was sold to a goldsmith who needed an apprentice. In 1689, King William III demanded the release of all British slaves. However, Richards talent and charm had impressed his master so much that he offered him half of his wealth and his only daughters’ hand in marriage but alas, it was not to be as Richard had his one true love waiting for him back in Galway. Upon his arrival back to Ireland, Richard revealed that he had been stealing some gold from the goldsmith each day and he fashioned this into a ring for his sweetheart, with whom he married. This became known as the Claddagh ring many years later.
In Irish tradition, the Claddagh ring is passed from the mother to the eldest daughter and so on for generations. When the famine hit Ireland in the 19th century, millions of people emigrated to America for a better life, and for many families, the Claddagh ring became an heirloom and a sweet reminder of home. For some women, it also became their inheritance because it was likely to be the most expensive thing they owned. The Claddagh ring is still used as everyday wear today and can be used as engagement and wedding rings to keep the symbolism of love, loyalty, and friendship on your wedding day.