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Claddagh Ring – Origins and Curiosities of the traditional Irish ring

By on 14 February 2019

Available in: itItaliano

Origins and legends that revolve around the Claddagh Ring, a traditional Irish ring, a symbol of love and friendship all over the world.

If you find yourself walking through the alleys of Galway you have already crossed it several times with your eyes. You can notice it among the signs of the jewellers and not only.

The Claddagh Ring is, in fact, a traditional Irish ring that encompasses many meanings and traditions related to love, friendship and loyalty.

Claddagh in Gaelic represents the typical rocky sand of the place and a village right next to Galway.

The origins of the Claddagh Ring in Galway

Irish village of Claddagh was inhabited mainly by fishermen and was located along the beach or rather “Claddagh” in Galway Bay. It was founded in 1232 and remained outside the city walls and was ruled by an autonomous leader until 1954.

Like everything in Ireland, the Claddagh ring has its own legend, indeed its legends. This tradition is so important that different traditions are born that tell its origin.

The two most accredited legends refer to members of the Joyce family, no less, originating from Galway.

The first Claddagh Ring was from a woman entrepreneur

Margaret Joyce, according to the first story, was a woman who lived in Galway in the 16th century. Like any good story, love enters the scene when the Spanish merchant Domingo de Rona sees her in the narrow streets of the city and falls madly in love with her.

After a period of courtship between one trip and another, in the end, the woman gives in and gets married. But unfortunately, always because of destiny, happiness just reached does not last long. The merchant dies early and Margaret inherits all her wealth.

After many years, in 1596, Margaret married again with Oliver Og French, governor of Galway. The latter did not marry her for his wealth, so much so that he left her free to manage and administer everything by herself. A rare thing for those times.

Margaret, for her part, was a very good entrepreneur and also very generous. Not only did he carry on the legacy of the first husband but I use a good part of it for the city.

Here comes the legend that says: One day, an eagle in flight dropped a gold ring on Margaret Joyce’s lap. This was the first irish Claddagh Ring received as a gift for the extreme generosity of the woman.

The Irish Claddagh Ring forged by Richard Joyce

The second story always speaks of a member of the Joyce family, but a century later than the Margaret I mentioned earlier.

This legend is the most accredited and speaks of a world made of merchants, slaves and pirates!

It is said that in the middle of the seventeenth century an inhabitant of Galway, that Richard Joyce, while he was sailing towards the West Indies was kidnapped by pirates.

They sold him as a slave to a rich Moorish goldsmith. The dark, however, began to become attached to him and taught him his art making him a very good chiseller.

In 1689, King William III of England obtained the release of all captured English. So it was that Richard Joyce, despite the pressure of the Moor who wanted him to stay, returned home.

With his return, he brought with him all the knowledge he had in a foreign land. And thanks to this he would have forged the first irish Claddagh Ring as a sign of gratitude towards the king to whom he owed his freedom.

Others, however, believe that he would forge this ring for the beloved girl who waited for his return.

The symbolism of the Claddagh Ring

But what is the peculiarity of this ring? Why is it so important in Irish tradition?

Because it is a ring that contains many symbols.

The ring is formed by two hands that embrace a heart in the center surmounted by a crown.

Let’s go by order, the hands that embrace are the symbol of friendship, the central heart represents love, while the crown is loyalty.

“The Hands are there for Friendship,

the Hearth is there for Love.

For Loyalty throughout the year,

the Crown is raised above.”

Claddagh Ring

Celtic Symbology of the Claddagh Ring

Going deeper into the symbology behind this ring we can reach a far more complex meaning.

The symbolism behind the ring could derive from the Celtic era and its gods.

In fact, many see a connection with Dagda (Father of the gods) that would be represented by the right hand. The goddess Anu (also known as Danu), the ancestor and universal mother of the Celts instead is the left hand.

The heart should represent the heart of every man, surmounted by the crown or better by Beathauile (in Gaelic means “the whole life”) which represents the vital principle.

Christian symbol of the irish ring

Finally, with the Christian conversion of Ireland by Saint Patrick, a Christian concept is also given to this widespread and important ring.

Now the Crown takes to symbolize the Father, the left hand the Son and the right hand the Holy Spirit.

The heart at the center towards which all the elements of the Trinity converge (connected to another Irish symbol, the Trefoil) represents all of Humanity.

Curiosities on the Irish Claddagh Ring

The Claddagh ring becomes very popular recently. In the nineteenth century, because of the Great Famine, many people emigrated to richer lands.

It was at that time that this ring became so important again because with its uniqueness it represented a strong bond with its homeland. It was the only legacy left by the family, passed from mother to daughter for centuries.

How to wear the Claddagh Ring

Nowadays this strong tradition and history is still perpetrated with promises of engagement. This ring is usually purchased for the “proposal”.

But depending on how you wear it you can launch a different message:

  • Single in hunting: Right Hand – Heart towards the fingertips
  • In a Relationship: Right Hand – Heart towards the wrist


  • Engaged: Left Hand – Heart towards the fingertips
  • Married: Left Hand – Heart to the Wrist

I hope you enjoyed this article!

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alberto branca why not travel blog
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Sono Alberto, un creatore di Itinerari, appassionato di Fotografia e Viaggiatore lento.

Why not? è un contenitore di esperienze che si evolve insieme a me. Mi piace costruire il mio viaggio, studiare e trovare la vera essenza dei luoghi e delle persone che incontro lungo la mia strada.

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