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Claddagh Ring Meaning

The Meaningful Story Behind the Claddagh Ring is Way Too Romantic

Read this article to know all about the meaning and origin of the Claddagh ring, which dates back to hundreds of years ago.
Wedessence Staff
Last Updated: Feb 28, 2018
Ring On Stem Of Bleeding Heart Flower
"The hands symbolize the friendship, the friendship that guards the heart, the very same heart that symbolizes love and affection, and wears the crown of loyalty and trust, the three elements, making the bond grow stronger day by day..., till eternity."

Isn't the conceptual design of the Irish Claddagh ring simply beautiful? The heart that represents love, the two hands which symbolize friendship, and the crown that represents loyalty! What is love, if not a lifelong journey of friendship with each other? And what is friendship without the trust and loyalty towards each other? When you choose to marry a person, isn't it because of the trust and bonding that you share? This is the reason why Claddagh rings are so cherished and preferred as wedding rings over others, and I don't think that there is anything better than the Claddagh ring to display how important your partner is to you. These rings not only look great but also symbolize a meaningful unity. They symbolize that love is not enough unless it is guarded by the most important pillars of a relationship-loyalty, trust, and unconditional friendship!

The all time famous Irish Claddagh rings are immensely rich in their culture and traditional heritage. On the basis of their classic design and significant meaning, they are also known as clasped hands rings, clasped hands and heart rings, hands and heart rings, and Irish heart rings. They also fall under the category of Faith rings because of over 300 years of history and cultural heritage, which still reflect in their design. It is because of this that these rings are traditionally worn during weddings in Ireland. However, with the worldwide popularity, they are even presented as engagement rings or on Valentine's Day! Now that we know what Claddagh rings are, let's trace their origin from the pages of history.

History of Claddagh Ring

Claddagh ring story started more than 300 years ago in a very small and rural place in Ireland known as the Claddagh, which was a small fishing village. Pronounced as 'Klada', the name Claddagh is derived from an Irish term 'An Cladach' meaning a 'flat stony shore'. They say that this was the place where the first Claddagh ring was presented as a symbol of love, which later became a legend in the jewelry art worldwide, making Irish jewelry all the more popular across the globe! Let me tell you the story behind the creation of the ring.

As per the Irish folklore of the 16th century, the Algerian pirates had captured a fishing boat from the Claddagh village and then sold the crew members as slaves. One of them, was a young man named Richard Joyce who was supposed to get married the very next week. Richard was turned into a slave and was sold to a wealthy Moorish goldsmith. Richard then learned the art of trade and adapted the skills to design jewelry. Although he was away, he never forgot his love, to whom he was supposed to get married, and in her memory, he designed the very first Claddagh ring with the hands symbolizing friendship, heart that symbolizes love, and the crown that shows loyalty. After many many years, Richard somehow managed to get back home, only to find that the girl he loved was still waiting for him. When he found this out, they immediately got married and that was the moment when Richard presented the first Claddagh ring ever made to his beloved wife, which happened to be the same ring he made in her memory when he was a slave. After knowing this story, the ring and the design became immensely popular all around the world. Although, some sources have a slightly different version of this story.

The differentiation comes in the part wherein it is mentioned that Richard Joyce was freed from slavery because of the orders issued by William III of England to free all the British subjects. The Moorish goldsmith was extremely fond of Richard Joyce and he also offered him his daughter's hand in marriage along with a significant portion in his wealth. But Richard refused the offer and went back to Claddagh, where he started his own jewelry business, fell in love, and made the first Claddagh ring for his beloved. Some say that he made the ring to celebrate his return to his homeland, symbolizing his love and loyalty towards his country.

There is another story behind the existence of Claddagh ring, and this story is nowhere close to the previous one. Some sources relate the story to a woman named Margaret Joyce who was married to a wealthy Spanish merchant named Domingo De Rona, who was trading in Galway, Ireland. After his death, Margaret inherited all his wealth and later on married Oliver Og French, the then Mayor of Galway. She used her inherited wealth to construct a lot of bridges in Connact. It is said that one day, an eagle happened to drop the first Claddagh ring into her lap, as a reward for all the welfare that she did for the country.

These are the two most popular theories that are related to the origin of the Irish Claddagh rings. However, on a personal note, I feel that the first story is more believable because the oldest of Claddagh rings tend to have the initials of Richard Joyce (RJ). Also, Richard Joyce happened to make this ring for his beloved, which is what this ring represents, the unity, friendship, and love in the beautiful relationship of marriage. This is my interpretation of what I studied, it would be fine if you think otherwise. You are free to share your observations and knowledge about Claddagh rings through our comments section below. Now, let us find out how this ring is worn according to the Irish Culture.

How to Wear a Claddagh Ring

Not only is the Claddagh ring symbolism extremely meaningful, the way it is worn also depicts a lot of things, including your relationship status! Yes, you needn't post your relationship status on Facebook anymore, the way you wear the ring will tell others the condition of your heart. The hand in which you wear the ring, the direction in which you point the crown..., all this signifies a lot of things. In case of people who are married or engaged, the Claddagh rings should be worn on the left hand on the wedding ring finger, with the crown of the ring pointing towards the nail of the finger, and the heart should be pointing towards the wrist. This symbolizes that the heart has already been taken, and is protected by the friendship and loyalty towards the person for eternity. A person who is not committed should wear the ring on the right hand with the crown of the ring pointing towards the wrist, and the heart of the ring pointing towards the nails. This signifies that the heart is yet to be taken. For people who are not engaged or married but have given their heart to someone, should wear the ring on the right hand with the crown of the ring pointing towards the nails and the heart pointing towards the wrist. This means that the heart has already fallen for someone, hoping that the love would be reciprocated and would last for eternity. So, be careful in the way you wear a Claddagh ring as people would judge your relationship status based on that!

The meaning and symbolism of the Claddagh ring is so rich and significant, that even people from non-Irish descent consider them to be the perfect wedding rings, engagement rings, or even the perfect promise rings. However, always remember the word of caution, it is said that Claddagh rings should never be purchased for oneself and should always be received as a gift, otherwise it brings bad luck along with it. So if you have found your special someone, why not gift that special person with a ring as special as a Claddagh? Not only is it a beautiful ring, but the meaning behind it makes the ring absolutely priceless..., just like your love. :)