What are Claddagh Rings?

Est. Reading: 3 minutes
April 20, 2023
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The Claddagh ring is a part of the Irish culture, infused with symbolism and Celtic tradition. Representing Love, Loyalty and Friendship.

Two hands represent friendship
The heart represents love
The crown represents loyalty

Origins and Folklore

Although there are various myths and legends around the origin of the Claddagh ring, it is almost certain that it originated in or close to the small fishing village of Claddagh (An Claddagh – stony shore) in Galway. Said to be the most beautiful fishing village in Ireland. Unfortunately, the thatched cottages and traditional costumes are no longer there, but the symbol is eternal.

The exact origins are unknown, however the legends surrounding it are imbued with romance.

Richard Joyce

A sailor from Claddagh, was captured by Algerian pirates enroute to the West Indies plantations in the 17th century and sold to a Moorish goldsmith. He was trained in the craft and released in 1689, as King William II demanded that all slaves be released in his Kingdom. The goldsmith offered him half of his wealth and daughter’s hand in marriage, if he would remain in Algiers. However, Richard’s one and only love was waiting for him in Galway, and he returned home. He had stolen specs of gold from the goldsmith, which in turn were crafted to make a ring for his love whom he married.

He later set up his own goldsmith shop and is said to have created more Claddagh rings with the initials ‘RI’ on them.

Margaret Joyce

Another tale is of a young woman who was part of the Joyce family. She married a wealthy Spanish merchant called Domingo de Rona in the 16th century. She followed him to Spain, where he died, and left her half of his fortune. As a wealthy woman she returned to Galway and used her fortune to build several bridges in the Connaught province. It is then said that an eagle dropped a Claddagh ring into her lap, as a reward for all for her generosity and good deeds. She later married the mayor of Galway, Oliver Og French.


The Claddagh ring also carries a religious interpretation, comparative to the Shamrock, one of the oldest symbols of the Christian Holy Trinity. The crown as the symbol of the father, the left hand the Son and the right hand as the Holy Ghost. The heart in the centre representing mankind.


Also believed to be based on the ‘Faith rings’ or Fede in Italian. These were a group of finger rings worn during the Roman Empire, carrying popularity throughout Medieval Europe. Consisting of two clasped hands that symbolised trust, faith and brotherhood.


The Claddagh ring conveys the wearers romantic availability or unavailability. They have been the traditional wedding ring in Irish culture since the 17th century. The four ways that they are worn portray the wearers status and meaning.

  • 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.
  • On the left ring finger with the point of the heart toward the fingertips: the wearer is engaged.
  • On the left ring finger with the point of the heart toward the wrist: the wearer is married.

As per Irish tradition, the Claddagh ring is passed down from mother to the eldest daughter and kept in the family for generations.

The Great Famine in the middle of the 19th century saw millions of Irish emigrating to North America. Claddagh rings were of the few valuable possessions they took with them. As a result, there are countless Claddagh rings in American and Canadian families today.


Nowadays whilst people give and wear the Claddagh ring, most are exchanged between lovers and has become popular as an engagement, wedding, or promise ring. Come by our jewellery workshop on 5 Mary Street, Dublin City Centre to learn more about these fascinating rings or to see how a real Irish Claddagh ring looks like.

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