Traditional Irish Claddagh Rings – expressing friendship, loyalty, love and much, much more…
The traditional Irish Claddagh ring is a ring with a unique design which represents love, loyalty and friendship. Hands represent friendship; a heart represents love; and a crown represents loyalty. In some cases the crown is missing – this is a Fenian Claddagh Ring.
The customs associated with the Claddagh Ring go back to the Irish fishing village of Claddagh just outside Galway. The ring – as we now recognize it – was first produced around the 17th century but there are several theories as to who was the first jeweler to make the first Claddagh Ring. No-one knows for certain.
The original purpose of the Claddagh Ring was as a Promise Ring, Engagement Ring and Wedding Ring. In Ireland Claddagh rings are handed down from mother to daughter, from grandmother to granddaughter.
The Claddagh ring belongs to a group of European finger rings called fede rings. The name “fede” derives from the Italian phrase mani in fede – hands joined in faith or hands joined in loyalty. These rings date back to Roman times, when the gesture of clasped hands was a symbol of pledging vows, and they were used as engagement and wedding rings in medieval and Renaissance Europe.
Fede rings are cast in the form of two clasped hands, symbolizing faith, trust and plighted troth.
Towards the end of the 20th century there was an explosion of interest in the Claddagh Ring, both as jewellery 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.
Traditionally, the way a Claddagh ring was worn on the hand was intended to convey the wearer’s relationship status:
- On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips: the wearer is single and may be looking for love.
- On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist: the wearer is in a relationship – suggesting their heart has been captured.
- On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips: the wearer is engaged.
- On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist: the wearer is married.
However, there are other local variations relating to the traditions involving the hand and the finger upon which the Claddagh Ring is worn.
Irish Claddagh Rings are traditionally associated with love and couples but are now being used more and more often to symbolize friendship. As such they form another type of Promise Ring, where the meaning of the promise ring is not always obvious.
See our collection of Claddagh Rings here.