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The History of the Claddagh Ring

The Claddagh Ring - a brief history

Most of us are familiar with the classic design of the Claddagh ring, comprising of a heart clasped by two hands and topped with a crown, but behind this traditional ring is an ancient Irish story of love, piracy and kidnap dating back to the early 17th Century.
Whether there is any truth in this story is a matter of some debate, nonetheless its a legend of love which warms even the coldest heart.

Plain Silver Claddagh Ring Silver & Bronze fancy Claddagh Ring

According to ancient Irish folklore in the 17th century in a small fishing village called Claddagh (which overlooks Galway Bay) on Ireland's west coast, a young man named Richard Joyce (part of the Joyce tribe from Galway's fourteen tribes of merchant families) deeply in love and due to marry the love of his life in a week’s time Richard Joyce was enslaved (as was common in those times)and put on a ship sailing to the West Indian slave plantations most likely the Irish Caribbean island of Montserrat.
It was thought that whilst on this journey the ship and its occupants were captured by pirates and subsequently this young man was sold as a slave to a Moorish Goldsmith.

During his time in captivity, Richard soon learned the skills of gold and silversmithing and himself became a master, all the time thinking of his true love back home in Ireland. As he dreamed of being back home with her and marrying her as previously planned he fashioned a ring to symbolise he undying love. A ring comprising of a heart clasped by two hands and topped with a crown the Claddagh ring.

Back in Ireland 1689 King William III (King of England, Scotland and Ireland) negotiated the return of the slaves and Richard Joyce returned to his homeland in Galway Ireland, even though it was said he had the Moor's offer of the daughter's hand in marriage and of half of all his wealth.

Upon his return he was reunited with his true love who had remained loyal to him in his absence, he presented her with the Claddagh ring and married her, never to be separated again.

Early Claddagh Rings Maker Marks


Some original Marks found on Claddagh Rings from the second half of the 17th to the early 18th century
MARKJEWELLER
RIRICHARD JOYCE, GALWAY
GRGEORGE ROBINSON, GALWAY
ARANDREW ROBINSON, GALWAY
NBNICHOLAS BURDGE, GALWAY
FAUSTIN FRENCH, GALWAY
JD RD WDDILLON
JSJOHN SHADWELL

Popularity

The Claddagh design has increasing in popularity considerably since its idea was conceived in Ireland back in the 17th century and can be found across the globe not just as a ring but can now be found in many other jewellery styles, like Claddagh Pendants, Claddagh Earrings and Claddagh Brooches.

Its also a style adopted by many famous people across the decades.
President John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy were presented with a pair of Fallers Claddagh Rings by Cornelius Faller of Fallers Jewellers in Galway Ireland during their 1963 visit to Galway. A ring John was often photographed wearing before his untimely death.

Former USA president Ronald Reagan was also given the gift of a Claddagh ring from the people of Galway in 1984.

Princess Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco are said to have been gifted a Claddagh brooch and cufflinks featuring Connemara marble in 1962.

Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra, King Edward VII and King George V all wore Claddagh rings.

Walt Disney also famously wore a Claddagh ring and even his statue at Disneyland wears a Claddagh ring on his finger.

Bill Clinton, Winston Churchill, Bing Crosby, Julia Roberts, Mia Farrow, Sienna Miller, John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Gabriel Byrne, Rebecca Gayheart, Barry Fitzgerald and Bono of U2 have all been pictured wearing Claddagh rings.

Wearing a Claddagh Ring

According to tradition the Claddagh ring can be worn three ways;
It is said when placed on the right hand with the heart's point facing out towards the fingertips the wearer’s heart is still looking for love.
When placed on the right hand with the heart's tip facing in towards the wrist, there are possibilities of love.
When worn on the left hand with the heart's point facing in towards the wrist, the wearer’s heart is promised forever.
This is the proper way to wear Claddagh ring for married people. It is a sign that the wearer is unavailable.
Let love and friendship reign supreme.



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