Claddagh ring tradition and symbolism

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Irish Claddagh ring
The Irish Claddagh ring can be a wedding ring or a friendship ring
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The Irish Claddagh Ring is rich in tradition, meaning, symbolism and beauty

The Irish know all about Claddagh rings although the rest of us may be in the dark. However, more and more people, and not just the Irish, have been wooed by the beautiful and symbolic Claddagh ring and are choosing to wear it. The Irish Claddagh ring is considered to be the most culturally rich piece of jewelry ever recorded throughout history.


The Claddagh symbol is an essential part of Irish tradition. The Claddagh design originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh and was initially crafted during the 17th century when Queen Mary II was on the throne.


The characteristic feature of the Claddagh design includes two hands that clasp a heart that is surmounted by a crown. The word Claddagh means flat stony share and is derived from the Irish term an Cladach.


There are, of course, legends behind the origin of the Claddagh ring and Claddagh ring tradition. One story maintains that a man named Richard Joyce, of the Irish Joyce clan and a native of Galway Ireland, left his home to work in the West Indies. He hoped to marry his sweetheart when he returned to Ireland. Unfortunately, his ship was captured and he was sold into slavery. 



Richard was purchased by a Moorish goldsmith and went to live in Algiers, where he learned the goldsmith trade. When William III was crowned king, he ordered that the Moors free all British prisoners. The goldsmith who owned Richard thought so highly of him and his work that the goldsmith offered Richard not only half of his wealth, if he stayed, but also his daughter. Richard refused and went back to Ireland. Richard had designed the Claddagh ring during the time that he was enslaved. When he got home, he gave the ring to his true love and they were married.


There is a rich history and tradition behind the Claddagh ring. The hands on the Claddagh ring stand for friendship, while the heart refers to love. The crown represents loyalty. There is an expression connected to this design: Let love and friendship reign. The Irish Claddagh ring is considered a faith ring because it signifies all those things that are, or should be, important to us.


The Claddagh ring is often used as a wedding ring but it can be given in friendship. Although people all over the world wear the Claddagh ring now, it has been the official Irish wedding ring since the 17th century.  In the modern world, the ring is recognized as a symbol of loyalty, fidelity, friendship and love, as well as a mark of Irish heritage.


Claddagh ring tradition dictates how the ring is worn. The Claddagh ring is one of few Irish traditions and icons that is central to Irish life and how the ring is worn is equally important. When the ring is worn on the right hand, the crown and heart face outwards, which reveals that the person who is wearing the ring has not had her heart won. When in love the wearer wears the ring with the heart and crown facing inward. The ring is placed on the left hand, with the heart and crown facing inward, when your love has been requited.


Claddagh ring tradition maintains that the Claddagh ring is handed down from mother to daughter. The ring represents ties with past generations and those generations to come. During the 19th century, many Irishmen had to leave their country because of the potato famine and travel to America. The Claddagh ring, for many, was their only lasting link with Ireland and, sometimes, the only item of value that they owned.


Men, as well as women, can wear a Claddagh ring. The male version is heavier and, if a gemstone is incorporated, the stone is larger than what would be found in a ring for a woman. Some couples choose to get matching Claddagh rings when they become engaged or married.



Terra Sancta Guild

Claddagh Jewels


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