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Claddagh Ring Meaning - Symbolism

The Claddagh Ring is a traditional Irish Ring which represents Love, Loyalty, and Friendship. The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, located just outside the old city walls of Galway, now part of Galway City. The ring is believed to have been first produced in the 17th century.

Usage and symbolism

The Claddagh Ring is an Irish design that symbolizes love, loyalty, and friendship.The Claddagh Ring has a distinctive design which features two hands clasping a heart, and is usually surmounted by a crown. The elements of this symbol are often said to correspond to the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown). Claddagh Rings are relatively popular among the Irish and those of Irish heritage.

Claddagh Rings are sometimes used as friendship ring but are most commonly used as engagement or wedding rings, which are traditionally passed down to the next generation. According to Irish author Colin Murphy, the way in which a Claddagh ring is worn conveys the wearer's relationship status:

How to wear your Claddagh Ring:

  1. 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 most commonly the case when a young woman has first received the ring from a relative, unless she is already engaged.)
  2. On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist, the wearer is in a relationship. (This suggests that the wearer's heart has been "captured".)
  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.

How to wear Claddagh Ring -


Galway has produced Claddagh Rings continuously since at least 1700 but the name "Claddagh Ring" was not used until the 1840s. There are many legends about the origins of the ring, particularly concerning Richard Joyce, a silversmith from Galway circa 1700, who is said to have invented the Claddagh design as we know it. His initials are in one of the earliest surviving Claddagh Rings but there are three other rings also made around that time, bearing the mark of goldsmith Thomas Meade.

In 1675 Richard Joyce left Galway to serve as an indentured servant in the West Indies but his ship was intercepted by pirates from Algeria who enslaved the entire crew. Joyce became the slave of a man in Tangiers, said to be a goldsmith, who made him his apprentice.

In 1689 William III became King of England and enforced a request upon the Algerians to release all of his subjects enslaved in the country. Joyce's master offered him half the business and his daughter's hand in marriage if he stayed, but he refused and returned to Galway. There, he is said to have created the original Claddagh Ring.


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