Claddagh Rings

The Claddagh Ring has its roots in a type of finger ring called Fede or faith ring. Since Roman times these consisted of clasped hands and often worked as a pair of two intertwined rings with a hand on each that would slide together. Worn as a sign of devotion to a spouse or beloved, this widespread European jewellery tradition evolved a peculiar variation in the West of Ireland that has come to be known as the Claddagh Ring. The hands clasp a heart in the manner of presentation with a crown over the heart.

By tradition, a Claddagh Ring is passed from mother to her eldest daughter. The manner in which it is worn indicates the status of the wearer. On the right hand with the heart worn outwards it indicates that the wearer is single and available for courtship. Worn on the ring finger of the left hand with the heart outwards it shows that the heart is occupied, but not yet married. Worn on the left ring finger with the heart facing inwards the Claddagh Ring declares that the wearer is married. Tradition also holds that the three motifs of the ring are symbolic, the heart for love, the crown for loyalty and the hands for friendship.

Claddagh Rings were very commonly used in the area around Galway since the late 17th century. The Claddagh is a fishing village on the outskirts of Galway City. It was a local fashion, which although it began to get wider notice in the early 20th century, was never really a part of the Celtic Revival. Towards the end of the 20th century there was an explosion of interest in the Claddagh Ring, both as jewelry and as an icon of Irishness that now adorns many other objects from pub signs to grave stones. In more recent years it has been embellished with interlace designs and combined with other Celtic and Irish symbols, but this is a very recent phenomenon that corresponds with the worldwide expansion in popularity of the Claddagh ring as an emblem of Irish identity