|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.
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.