The Claddagh Ring is a unique and distinctive Irish
love symbol. It is believed to have originated in the Claddagh, a small fishing
community near Galway Bay.
The Claddagh, outside the City walls, and further separated by the River
Corrib, was an exclusive community of fisher-folk forbidden to use spade or hoe
and ruled by a periodically-elected "King" whose sole distinguishing
mark was his right to use a white sail on his fishing boat.
The Ring shows two hands holding a heart which wears a crown. This motif is
explained in the phrase "Let Love and Friendship Reign", making it
ideal for a wedding ring used by a small community for over 400 years.
There are many legends as to the origin of the Ring, the most likely is the
story of Richard Joyce, or Ioyes. While enroute to the West Indies, he was
captured by Algerian corsairs and sold as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith who
trained him. Later at the demand of King William III of England he was
released, he returned to Galway and set up as a goldsmith. He marked his work
with an anchor signifying 'hope' and the initials R.I.
The Claddagh Ring became popular outside the Claddagh about the middle of
the last century, especially as it was the only ring made in Ireland worn by
Queen Victoria and later by Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII.
How to wear your Claddagh Ring
Worn on the right hand, crown turned inwards, your heart is yet unoccupied.
Worn on the right hand, crown turned outwards, shows a special commitment to
Worn on the left hand, crown outwards, let our love and friendship reign
forever - never to be separated.