Claddagh Rings

  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.

The Claddagh Ring originated in a fishing village called Claddagh , now part of  Galway City, in the West of Ireland. The ring is a member of a group of rings called Fede or ‘faith rings’ which date back to Roman times. They take the form of two hands, representing trust and faith. The Claddagh ring is a quite distinctive variation: the two hands clasp a heart (representing love) which is surmounted by a crown (representing loyalty).    

Legend has it that its creator was a local lad, Richard Joyce. He was travelling to  the West Indies when kidnapped by a band of Mediterranean pirates and sold to a Moorish goldsmith in Algiers. The goldsmith found Joyce a willing pupil and taught him his trade. When in 1689 King William III negotiated the return of  all the British subjects detained there in slavery, Joyce returned to Galway - despite, it is said, of the Moor's offer of his daughter's hand in marriage and a princely dowry of half of all his wealth. Back home he presented his long lost girl friend with the now famous claddagh ring,  married, and followed the business of a goldsmith with considerable success.
 
The way the ring is worn is significant. When worn on the right hand  with the crown facing the fingernail and the heart on the inside, closest to the hand,  that means love is being considered. If the ring is worn with the heart on the outside then it signifies that the bearer is not yet promised.
When worn on the left hand as an engagement ring the heart should face out, after the wedding turn it around so the crown faces the fingernail.  

Over the last century a new design has evolved. The crown was dropped because of the unpopularity of the British Crown and  two hearts used instead of one - the Fenian Claddagh.