Claddagh jewelry design originated in Ireland. It is named for a small fishing village in Galway with the same name. Legend tells that a young fisherman by the name of Richard Joyce crafted the ring as a token of his affection for his true love. The story goes that the young sailor was
bound for the West Indies but kidnapped and sold into slavery. His new master was a wealthy Moorish goldsmith. Though a slave, Joyce learned the art of goldsmithing from his master and it seems an understanding had grown between the two men.
In fact, when King William III ordered the slaves to be released, Joyce’ master invited him to stay on. Not as a slave or worker, but as a son in law. He offered Joyce his daughter’s hand in marriage and half of his estate as a dowry, but the sailor could not accept for his heart belonged to another.
Painting of Galway by Daniel Fishback
While in exile, he never stopped yearning for his one true love. Upon returning to Galway, the ever faithful Joyce presented his lovely lady with a golden ring. The ring featured two hands securely cradling a heart topped with a crown. It was the first Royal Claddagh ring.
Though he had been away for fourteen years, the woman he loved remained as steadfast as Penelope from Homer’s Iliad. She remained faithful. They married and Joyce continued creating beautiful jewelry, but the design created out of love and longing became his legacy.
Today, the ring symbolizes the same as it did in the 17th century: Love, friendship, fidelity, and loyalty. The two hands represent friendship as each delicately cradles the heart as though protecting it from harm. The crown symbolizes royalty and fidelity and the heart everlasting love. The claddagh design is a beautiful representation of both love and friendship.
For this reason, it is no longer considered simply an Irish treasure. The distinctive design has spread to all parts of the world and is given by anyone who wants to show their attachment to another.
Claddagh earrings or necklaces are popular styles given as gifts from one friend to another to symbolize an everlasting friendship. Earrings, like the ones at the left, are a beautiful representation of one’s true affection for another. Claddagh rings are also extremely popular and actually have an additional meaning all their own.
If a claddagh ring is worn on the right hand and the tip of the heart points ourward, it means the wearer is single as their heart is open for another to receive. If the heart points inward, it means the wearer may be off the market soon. If the ring is on the left hand and the heart points inward, the wearer’s heart completely belongs to someone. This, in addition to the qualities the ring represents in friendship, love, loyalty and fidelity, makes it a popular choice for engagement, wedding and promise rings.
Whether you choose gold or silver, Claddagh jewelry is a great way to show love and affection for a friend, family member or significant other. It tells the story of two lovers torn apart by fate and returned to one another through chance. Their love, friendship and faithfulness are as lasting as the style itself.
The hands are there for friendship, the heart is there for love. For loyalty throughout the year, the crown is raised above.