The Claddagh ring is a fede ring, coming from the Italian phrase “mani in fedi,” which means “hands in faith.” Since the 18th century, the Claddagh ring has been a symbol of friendship, loyalty, and love. This is reflected in the ring’s design.
A traditional Claddagh ring features two hands holding a heart, with a crown above it. The heart symbolizes love, the clasped hands symbolize friendship, and the crown symbolizes loyalty. Fenian Claddagh rings do not have a crown. The Claddagh ring can also symbolize the Trinity, with the heart representing God and the hands representing Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Claddagh rings can be used as friendship rings, or as wedding or engagement rings. The Claddagh ring is worn by women and is passed down from mother to daughter or from grandmother to granddaughter. Men, however, can also wear these rings, but they are heavier than the Claddagh rings worn by women.
According to Colin Murphy, an Irish author, the way a ring is worn on a person’s hand represents that person’s relationship status. There are four different statuses associated with the way the ring is worn, according to Murphy. If the ring is on the wearer’s right hand and the heart’s point is facing the wearer’s fingertips, the wearer is single. If the ring is on the right hand but the heart’s point is facing the wearer’s wrist, the wearer is dating. If the ring is on the wearer’s left hand and the heart’s point is facing the fingertips, the wearer is engaged. If the ring is on the left hand but the heart’s point is facing the wrist, the wearer is married. Murphy’s description is not the only description available, as there are many local village descriptions of the relationship between how the ring is worn and the wearer’s relationship status.
The Claddagh ring gets its name from a remote fishing village in Ireland, called the Claddagh. Claddagh rings have been produced in Galway, Ireland since the 1700s. The term “Claddagh ring” was not used until 1840. Although there are many legends surrounding the origin of the Claddagh ring, there are two in particular that are most commonly believed. This first one concerns a woman named Margaret Joyce. According to the legend, Margaret Joyce inherited a large amount of money after her merchant husband, Domingo de Rona, died. Margaret Joyce later married the mayor of Galway. Her inheritance money was used to construct bridges, and the first Claddagh ring was dropped on her lap by an eagle as a reward. The second legend is about Richard Joyce, a Galway native. He was captured by Algerians and sold to a Moorish goldsmith as a slave. In 1689, Richard Joyce was released from slavery and returned with the first Claddagh ring to Galway. Richard Joyce then gave the ring to the woman he loved. Once married, Richard Joyce became a goldsmith and made and sold Claddagh rings.
Other legends give the ring Celtic origins. The legend surrounding Claddagh rings are irrelevant to what the ring has always symbolized: true love, loyalty, and friendship.
This article was written by Elizabeth Barrett, a freelance writer and mother of two. Elizabeth enjoys spending time with her family and taking vacations when her family owned business allows it.