The History of the Claddagh Ring
Love, Loyalty, Friendship and Fidelity
The traditional wedding ring of the Irish since the 17th Century, the Royal Claddagh ring is today worn by people all over the world as a universal symbol of love, loyalty, friendship and fidelity, and of their Irish heritage.
For love, we wear the heart. In friendship, we wear the hands. And, in loyalty and lasting fidelity: we wear the Royal Claddagh crown.
Worn on the right hand, with crown and heart facing out, the ring tells that the wearer’s heart has yet to be won. While under love’s spell it is worn with heart and crown facing inwards. Wearing the ring on the left hand, with the crown and heart facing inwards, signifies that your love has been requited.
A Symbol of Enduring Love
Originally a symbol of the ‘Fisher Kings’ of the Galway town of Claddagh, Ireland, it was first fashioned into the traditional ring back in the 17th Century during the reign of Mary II. Legend has it that a young Irish man, Richard Joyce, bound for the West Indian slave plantations was kidnapped in rough seas by a band of Mediterranean pirates and sold to a Moorish goldsmith who over the many long years of his exile helped him perfect the skills of a master craftsman. When, in 1689, King William III negotiated the return of the slaves, Joyce returned to Galway despite, it’s said, the Moor’s offer of their daughter’s hand in marriage and a princely dowry of half of all his wealth.
Back in Ireland a young women had never stopped faithful waiting for her true love to return. Upon Richard’s return, he presented her with the now famous Royal Claddagh gold ring – a symbol of their enduring love. Two hands to represent their friendship, the crown to signify their loyalty and lasting fidelity, and the sign of the heart to symbolise their eternal love for each other. They soon married, never to be separated again.
Steeped in Tradition
Since the 17th Century, the Claddagh ring has been the traditional wedding ring of the Irish. It is worn by people all over the world as a universal symbol of love, loyalty, friendship and fidelity.
Traditionally handed down from mother to daughter, the Royal Claddagh ring has also become a symbol of our ties with the past and generations gone by. As Irish people, we remember the many of our people who had to leave Ireland with nothing but their lives during the Great Famine of the 19th Century – many leaving from Cork harbour to make the long voyage across the Atlantic to America.
The gold Royal Claddagh ring was to become for many, the only enduring link with their home country and practically their only savings and family inheritance.
Celtic Birthstone Rings and Necklaces
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