When it comes to Irish heritage and culture, there are few symbols as iconic as the Claddagh ring. We have adorned our fingers, ears and necks with gorgeous pieces of Claddagh jewelry for generations and have decorated our homes with plaques and blessings rooted in the classic Irish design.
In fairness, I’m sure there are plenty of our readers who are well aware of the info I have below; however, having stood behind the counter of Cronin’s Irish Cottage over the past three decades, I have come to learn that there are tons of people who definitely don’t know a whole lot about the history of the Claddagh ring. We tend to know the basics about the Claddagh, but there are several details that often go unnoticed and so I’d love to share a little of what I know with you. . .
The Claddagh is the stuff of legends. . . well one legend in particular
The haunting Irish legend tells us of a young fisherman named Richard Joyce. Richard hailed from the village of Claddagh in the County Galway. One day, just a week shy of his own wedding, Richard was captured by pirates and was eventually sold to a Turkish goldsmith.
Richard Joyce spent years in captivity. During this time, he crafted a ring of gold for the beloved girl he left behind, never sure if he would see her again. Decades after his capture, Richard was released and found his way back home to Claddagh, where his beloved still resided. She had never married and held her long lost love in her heart. When they were reunited, Richard gave her the ring of gold, and they married – never again to be separated.
The Claddagh Ring is uniquely symbolic.
The symbolism associated with the Claddagh ring is what makes it so popular among friends and couples.
The hands that cradle the heart represent Friendship.
The crown that rests atop the heart represent Loyalty.
The heart itself represents Love.
Put these three together and not only do you have a Claddagh ring, but you have a recipe for everlasting and authentic relationships!
There is another version of the Claddagh ring.
There is another version of the Claddagh ring that is sometimes spotted. It is set apart from the traditional Claddagh ring because it is missing one of its iconic symbols – the Crown.
This Claddagh is known as The Fenian Claddagh, and the crown is removed in a statement against British imperialism. The Fenian Claddagh does not have the level of recognition that the traditional Claddagh does; in fact, I did not even know that it existed until someone asked me if I sold any in our shop, Cronin’s Irish Cottage.
Show me how you wear your ring and I’ll tell you your relationship status. . .
The Claddagh ring has a very distinct way of telling people if you are on or off the market, so you better take heed before slapping the ring on any which way!
If you are single and available. . .
Your heart is your own.
Wear the Claddagh on your right ring finger with the crown down turned toward your own arm and the point of the heart facing out.
If you are in a relationship. . .
Your heart is taken.
Wear the Claddagh on your right ring finger with the crown turned out and the point of the heart facing in.
If you are engaged…
Wear the Claddagh on your left ring finger with the crown turned down toward your own arm and the point of the heart facing out..
If you are married. . .
Wear the Claddagh on your left ring finger with the crown turned out and the point of the heart facing in.
These days we all want to wear Claddagh rings but don’t always have an available finger to wear one on, so it has become more common to wear the ring on whatever finger or hand you choose, as long as you take heed to whether the crown is facing in or out.
For example, I am married but wear a traditional wedding band, so I wear my Claddagh ring on my right hand with the crown facing out and the point of the heart facing in.
Finally, you are not to buy a Claddagh ring for yourself.
This is something my Irish mother, who sold thousands of Claddagh rings over 30 years in Cronin’s Irish Cottage, often stated – even if it meant her losing a sale from time to time! If someone came into the shop and wanted to buy a Claddagh ring for themselves, my mom would ask the person to give the money to someone else in the shop and then have the other person give the money to her. She claimed that this meant someone else had actually purchased the ring – making for some good luck!
Some consider it bad luck to buy a Claddagh ring for yourself, but I think it mostly means that we should put more energy into the gift giving beauty of the Claddagh ring due to its lovely symbolism.
So, there you have it!! Even if you knew the details before, it is nice to have a little refresher on the magic and inspiration that is woven through the Claddagh ring – and if you ever catch yourself wondering what a gift filled with thought, love and culture looks like – take a look at The Claddagh Ring.