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Irish Culture - Claddagh Ring

Have you ever heard of a claddagh (pronounced Kla - duh)? If you haven’t, it's a type of ring that is traditionally worn in Ireland, originating in Claddagh, a fishing village outside of Galway City. In some cases, it is gifted to another person, while other times it is passed down like an heirloom. Where did the tradition start and what is the importance of the claddagh ring?

Traditional Female Claddagh Ring

Legend states it may have begun in the 17th century when Richard Joyce was sold into slavery by pirates and shipped to Africa. He was forced to work for a Moorish goldsmith and stole a piece of gold every day. He made a ring after he designed the claddagh to symbolize his hope his loved ones would remain loyal until he found his way back to Ireland. 

Fede Ring – Girona Shipwreck

Another legend says Margaret Joyce married a Spanish man named Domingo de Roma in the 16th Century. After Domingo died, he left Margaret his riches. She took his inheritance and paid for bridges constructed in Sligo and Galway. As a reward, an eagle dropped the first claddagh ring in her lap. This seems to go into the myth region, although there is a connection to reality. There is a fascinating comparison of the claddagh design to the fede ring found in the 1588 Spanish Armada shipwreck off the County Antrim coast. The ship the ring was recovered and was named Girona.

Traditional men's ring

Though the ring is usually an heirloom, you buy one for someone else (In fact, it is bad luck to buy one for yourself).  Both men and women and known to wear them, with men traditionally having thicker bands while women prefer rings. Regardless of gender, the symbolism and the way they are worm remains the same.

What is the symbolism?

There are three main symbols for the claddagh: the two hands symbolize friendship, the heart symbolizes love, and the crown symbolizes loyalty. When put together they symbolize the virtues of perfect relations enshrined with commitment and enduring affection.

How are they worn?

The importance of how they're worn depends on what hand they're on and which way the heart faces. On the right hand, if the heart faces the wearer it means they're in a committed relationship, if it faces out it means they're single and looking for love. On the other (literal and metaphorical) hand, if it faces yourself it means they're married, while if it faces out that means they're engaged.

The claddagh ring is a beautiful way to honor tradition and show the importance and value relationships have in one's life.

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