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For hundreds of years the Claddagh has been the symbol of love, devotion and Ireland itself. USA Kilts proudly offers the beloved Claddagh ring in ladies and gents sizes and designs. High quality silver jewelry direct from Ireland. The perfect way to show your pride and heritage. And a beautiful gift for your beloved.
We all know the famous design of the Claddagh (Irish: fáinne Chladaigh) -- the hands which represent friendship, the heart which represents love and the crown which represents loyalty. But not everyone knows the origins of this most Irish symbol. The design seems to have originated in the tiny fishing village of Claddagh which lies just outside the old city walls of Galway. Galway is still the main production center of genuine Claddagh rings. The first ones recorded appear around the 17th century. Yet the name itself does not seem to have been used prior to the 1830s when Galway jewelers began to market the ring beyond the local clientele. It's popularity spread like wild fire.
Who made the first one? There are several possibilities, but none of the historical facts can compete with the Legend: Sometime around 1675, a man from Galway named Richard Joyce was captured and enslaved by Algerian Corsairs (Mediterranean pirates) while traveling to the West Indies. Joyce was sold into slavery and became the slave of a Moorish goldsmith. Time passed and Joyce learned the jewelry smithing trade. Eventually, King William III sent an ambassador to Algeria to demand the release of any and all British subjects held as slaves. Thus after fourteen years, Richard Joyce was free. He returned to Galway. Among his possessions was a special ring which he had fashioned while in captivity. This, the first Claddagh, he gave to his long-missed sweetheart. They married and Joyce set up shop as a master goldsmith. He and his darling wife lived happily tiil the end of their days. The story may or may not be true, but the initials R.J. are imprinted on one of the earliest surviving Claddagh rings.
Claddagh rings became popular the world over in the 20th century -- being adopted and shared in every part of the Irish diaspora, especially the USA. Often given as tokens of friendship, Claddagh rings are most commonly used as engagement and wedding bands. Mothers of Irish heritage sometimes give them to daughters when they come of age. A traditional saying that goes with the ring is, "Let love and friendship reign."
Traditionally, a Claddagh ring may be used to convey the wearer's relationship status:
- On the right hand, point of the heart toward the fingertips = "I am single and seeking love...maybe."
- On the right hand, point of the heart toward the wrist = "I am in a relationship."
- On the left hand, point of the heart toward the fingertips = "I am engaged."
- On the left hand, point of the heart toward the wrist = "I am married."
This is the most common version of the code. Others exist. The code is a fairly modern custom and practiced mainly in the diaspora. It's easy to see why -- Irish immigrants were likely desperate to find mates as they forged new lives in a strange and vast country like America.