The Origins of The Claddagh Irish Symbol
The Claddagh is one of Ireland’s most recognized and precious images. 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 Irish heritage.
In recent years, it has been embellished with interlace designs and combined with other Celtic and Irish symbols. As a result, its popularity has spread worldwide as an emblem of Irish identity.
The Claddagh ring originated in the small fishing village of Claddagh in Galway, on Ireland’s west coast. Its unique design is associated with the Joyce family, one of the ancient Tribes of Galway. Legend has it that fisherman Richard Joyce was captured by pirates and sold into slavery in Algeria shortly before he was to be married. His captor was a Moorish goldsmith, who sensed his potential and trained Richard in his craft. In time, Richard Joyce became a highly proficient master craftsman.
While in captivity, Richard only thought about his fiance at home and his love for her. Thinking about the love of his life and one day seeing her again inspired him to create the first Claddagh ring to symbolize his love and affection for his true love. He designed the ring with a heart for love, a pair of hands for friendship, and a crown for loyalty and fidelity.
“Two hands embracing a heart adorned with a crown symbolize the purity of a special relationship – friendship (cairdeas), love (grá), and loyalty (dílseacht). “
In 1689, all subjects of King William who were held in slavery were freed, and now a free man, Richard Joyce refused his former master’s offer of half his fortune and his daughter’s hand in marriage and returned to Ireland. He found his sweetheart had waited for him, and he presented her with the ring he had made, and they were married.
The Claddagh ring is easily recognized around the world, and there’s an old Irish saying that goes along with the Claddagh ring: “With these hands, I give you my heart and crown it with my love.” So the ring represents love, loyalty, and friendship.