CLADDAGH RING meaning: the story of this famous Irish symbol

In this article, we will explore the iconic symbol of the Claddagh ring, which is a significant part of Irish culture.

CLADDAGH RING meaning: the story of this famous Irish symbol.

The Claddagh ring is a symbol deeply rooted in Irish tradition and culture. In fact, many of us have seen this iconic ring at one time or another, and it has become one of the country’s most precious jewellery pieces. 

While it is a beauty to look at, there is more to the Claddagh ring than you might think, which is why we will delve into the symbolism behind it as well as the history and that age-old question – how are you really supposed to wear a Claddagh Ring?

So, stick around for some fascinating history as we unveil the story of this famous Irish symbol

Ireland Before You Die’s fun facts about the Claddagh ring:

  • The Claddagh ring has an incredibly interesting history that is said to originate in Galway.
  • The origin of the Claddagh is not definitively known, but the first tales date back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
  • The way you wear a Claddagh ring is VERY important. Find out more about that below.
  • People often use the Claddagh ring as an engagement or wedding ring.
  • You can get your very own Claddagh ring at our shop here.

Claddagh ring meaning and origin – the story behind it

The Claddagh ring meaning and origin.

The Claddagh ring is something many Irish people are familiar with; in fact, this iconic piece of jewellery was handed down through generations for most of us – but do we really know the story behind it? 

The first Claddagh ring can be traced back to a small fishing village named Claddagh in County Galway, where it got its name in the 17th century.

While the exact origins of the ring are still uncertain, it is widely believed that the Romans and the Celts heavily influenced the design. 

The Irish Claddagh ring features a heart, a crown and two hands, which have specific symbolism, which we will delve into a little further along, but this piece of jewellery has become a powerful symbol of Ireland. 

The ring serves as a reminder of cultural heritage and identity, which is why it is still found all over the country to this day and is a significant and valuable part of many people’s lives. So, what do the symbols mean?

You can see where the Claddagh symbol ranks on this list of the top 10 Irish Celtic symbols and their meanings.

Symbolism – the true meaning of the Claddagh ring 

The symbolism behind it.
Credit: Pixabay / PetiteLouve

As we mentioned, the Claddagh ring meaning has three key elements, each with its own meaning. The heart, for instance, represents love; the crown signifies loyalty, and the hands represent friendship. 

The combination of the three symbols is a sign of a strong and endurant relationship. 

Several legends surround the ring, adding to its mysticism and charm, one of which is the story of Richard Joyce, a young fisherman. 

The young man who was captured and sold into slavery spent his time in captivity crafting the Claddagh ring for his love, and upon returning home, he presented it to her as a sign of their unwavering bond. 

Another legend dating back to the 16th century says that a woman named Margaret Joyce used her husband, Domingo de Rona’s, fortune for good deeds after he died. As a reward, an eagle dropped the first Claddagh ring in her lap.

One of the main things to note when discussing the symbolism of the Claddagh ring is how the bearer should wear it. 

The ring carries a specific set of customs carried down through generations, and these traditions can impact the ring’s symbolism. So, how do you wear a Claddagh ring?

Wearing a Claddagh ring – traditions and customs

The traditions and customs of wearing a Claddagh ring.
Credit: Flickr/ lisaclarke

Unlike many other rings, the Claddagh ring comes with a set of traditions and customs, so much so that wearing the ring in a specific way can change its meaning. 

For example, if the ring is worn on the right hand with the heart facing outwards, this signifies that the wearer’s heart is yet to be captured.

However, wearing it on the right hand with the heart facing inward means that the wearer is fully committed. 

If that wasn’t enough, there are more meanings if the ring is worn on the left hand. For instance, the wearer can show their engagement or marriage by wearing the ring on the left hand with the point of the heart facing inwards. 

Today, many couples still choose the Claddagh ring as their engagement ring or wedding ring since it represents love, loyalty and friendship.

The Claddagh ring today – variations and Interpretations

The Claddagh ring today.

As well as many couples choosing this ring to symbolise their love for each other, the ring is also a firm symbol in Irish tourism, with many visitors eager to get one of their own. 

In Galway City, the birthplace of the Claddagh ring, visitors can witness firsthand artisans creating Claddagh rings and hear the stories behind the iconic piece of jewellery. 

With visitors worldwide seeking to acquire a Claddagh ring of their own to take home as a souvenir or to create their own family heirloom, there are plenty of jewellery shops to explore and many variations available depending on tastes. 

These days, the traditional design remains as popular as ever, but there are many variations and interpretations of the ring, including gemstones, intricate Celtic knotwork and touches or personalization. 

These modern variations allow wearers to express their individual style while adding their own sense of uniqueness. Get your very own Claddagh ring at our IB4UD shop here.

Notable mentions

The Claddagh Ring Museum.

Royal connections: This ring has found its way into royal circles, with Queen Victoria having her very own Claddagh ring, which she was fascinated by. 

Cultural symbolism: It has become an emblem of Irish heritage over the years and is often worn by those worldwide with Irish ancestry. 

Claddagh Ring Museum: This dedicated museum in Claddagh, County Galway, is a great place to delve more into the history, explore the exhibits and learn more about the craft. 

Popular culture: This popular ring has been featured in plenty of movies and tv shows over the years, and the intricate design has continued to inspire artists and captivate audiences worldwide. 

Fede Rings: The Claddagh ring is sometimes said to have evolved from the Fede ring, which features hands clasped together, representing fidelity and friendship.

Celtic Knot: Like the Claddagh, Celtic Knots are a huge part of Celtic culture and still have a huge presence today. You can find out more about them here.

Your questions answered about the Claddagh ring meaning

If you still have questions, we have you covered! In this section, we’ve compiled some of our readers’ most frequently asked questions and popular questions that have been asked online about this topic.

What do the hands holding a heart mean? 

The hands symbolise friendship, and the heart symbolises love; together, this is a sign of commitment. 

Which way should the heart face on a Claddagh ring? 

The heart should face inward if you are in a committed relationship or outward if you seek your true love. 

Who should give you a Claddagh ring? 

There is no rule on who can give you a Claddagh Ring, as it can be a symbol of love from a romantic partner, a symbol of friendship from a friend or passed down as an heirloom from a family member. 

What finger does a Claddagh ring go on? 

The most common placement is on the left hand’s ring finger, but it is a personal preference. 

The iconic Claddagh ring is a symbol of Ireland that we all know and love. Hopefully, with this historical and symbolic knowledge, we can truly appreciate its design and significance within Irish culture.

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