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Essays and Such

Irish Cultural Society

of San Antonio Texas

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Promoting Awareness of Irish Culture

Claddagh Ring
by Ann Kelley
Let love and friendship reign

The History of the Claddagh Ring

 
The Claddagh Ring is one of the most endearing symbols of 
Irish culture and sentiment. This unique and wonderful 
ring derives its name from the Town of Claddagh, a small 
fishing community in Galway located just outside the city
walls in which it is traditionally said to have originated 
about 400 years ago.
Claddagh Ring
     Claddagh was a town devoted strictly to fishing. In 
fact, it is said that it was so strictly devoted to fishing 
that the people were forbidden to use a hoe or any other 
form of farming equipment. The presence of a Claddagh Ring 
on the fingers of drowned sailors was an indication of  
their place of origin. Trading for their needs was a 
necessity, however, and the spread of these rings was a 
result.

 

           The designer of the Claddagh Ring is thought 
to be Richard Joyce, a native of Galway. While being 
transported as a slave to the plantations in the West 
Indies, he was captured by Mediterranean pirates and sold 
to a Moorish goldsmith in Tunis, Algeria who trained him 
in his craft. When William III came to the throne of England 
in 1689, he concluded and agreement whereby all his subjects 
held in captivity by the Moors were allowed to come home.  
Joyce's Moorish master had become so attached to him that 
he offered his most beautiful daughter to be Joyce's wife.  
Joyce declined this generous offer and his Moorish master 
released him and allowed him to return to his home in 
Galway where he set up a small shop in the Claddagh and 
began to make the ring that has helped to make this town 
famous. 

The Claddagh ring belongs to a class of rings called 
"Fede" or faith rings and they date from the Roman times.  
They are identified by having the bezel cut or cast as 
two clasped hands for faith, trust, or plighted troth.   
Claddagh Rings depict a heart topped with a crown, and 
held by two hands;  one on either side. The hands signify 
friendship, the crown loyalty and fidelity, and the heart 
love. The phrase that is usually associated with the ring 
is "Let love and friendship reign." 

           The ring has become popular outside of Ireland 
since the middle of the last century. Its spread beyond 
Ireland was helped by the vast exodus to the west during 
the Great Famine. These rings were brought from Ireland 
and were kept as heirlooms which were passed from mother 
to daughter. It was claimed to be the only ring made in 
Ireland ever to be worn by Queen Victoria and later Queen 
Alexandra and King Edward VII.   These rings were made by 
Dillons of Galway in 1750.

           The Claddagh was frequently used as a marriage 
ring. Today, the ring is worn extensively by both men and 
women across Ireland. It is traditionally worn either on 
the right hand with the heart turned outwards to show 
that the wearer is unattached or with the heart turned 
inwards to show he or she is "spoken for." If the wearer 
is married, it is worn on the left hand, with the heart 
turned inward.

           The Claddagh grows more popular as time passes 
because of its unique design, its peculiar history, its 
sentimental appeal and its close association with the 
ancient Claddagh of  Galway.