July 16th, 2007

What is a Claddagh Ring?

Picture of Claddagh RingHave you heard the term Claddagh Ring but never knew what it meant? The Claddagh tradition is Irish. It comes from a now non-existent fishing village near Galway. The town maintained a sovereign settlement until their last King, Martin Oliver, died in 1972.

Depending upon how the ring is worn, it can signify different things. The symbol is of two hands joined together supporting a single heart. It stands for “Let love & friendship reign.” If the ring is worn on the right hand, with the heart facing outward, it means the person is single, with a free heart. Heart facing inwardly, toward the knuckle of the right hand, it means this person is unavailable. If worn on the left hand, it means the person’s heart is taken.

Although not everyone agrees wholeheartedly on the history of the Claddagh Ring, the person who seems to get the most attribution for making this ring first is Richard Joyes. His ship was captured and he became a slave to a goldsmith who turned him into an apprentice. When he was freed he returned to the fishing village near Galway and became a Jeweller. Some of his original rings with his mark on it are said to be sold to this very day. I’m trying to find a picture of an original ring and have several emails out to this effect, but the closest I’ve come so far is a picture of a ring by George Robinson from 1784. Robinson was one of the earliest Jewellers to make the Claddagh Ring.

As for pronunciation, The Straight Dope says it’s “clod-uh”, word in our forum is “Cladd Ah”, Talk Graphics has some other variations.

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