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The Claddagh Ring: Meaning & History

The unique symbolism of the Claddagh Ring makes this historic Irish design a real conversation starter. What does the Claddagh mean? Do you wear it with the heart turned in, or out? And who created this beautiful design in the first place?

The Claddagh ring / An Fáinne Cladach

The Claddagh ring is an Irish symbol of love, loyalty, and friendship. The Gaelic word, “Cladach”, means rocky beach or shore.
How to Pronounce the Word “Claddagh” (audio)

The History of the Claddagh Ring

The first Claddagh Ring was made in Galway over 400 years ago in a small fishing village called Claddagh. The identity of the original designer is a matter of some debate, with Richard Joyce held to be the most likely candidate. What is not in doubt is that the design was inspired by Roman “Fede” or “Gimmel” rings. These rings featured the hand & heart symbols, but lacked the ‘Crowning characteristic’ of the Irish Claddagh ring.
See an example on the British Museum website.

     

 

A fishing boat bearing the name “Claddagh” at the docks in Galway city

The Meaning of the Claddagh Ring

Love, Loyalty & Friendship / Grá, Dílseacht agus Cairdeas (Gaelic)

The meaning of the Claddagh is perfectly encapsulated in the phrase “Love, Loyalty & Friendship”, or if you prefer to speak gaelic, “Grá, Dílseacht,  Cairdeas” (pronounced “Graw Deal-shocked, Core-jass”). The unique design is a combination of three symbols:

  1. Heart = Love
  2. Crown = Loyalty
  3. Hands = Friendship

The versatility of the Claddagh has allowed this design to achieve worldwide fame as a token of love and friendship. The ring may be offered in celebration of romantic love, such as a promise ring, engagement or wedding ring. Equally, the ring can be worn as an emblem of an enduring friendship. Many more wear the Claddagh as a memento of a trip to Ireland, or to remind them of their Irish heritage.

How to Wear a Claddagh Ring

Over the centuries a number of myths and legends have built up around the Claddagh ring. One of the most enduring customs has been to wear the Claddagh ring to signify whether or not your heart is taken.

    Claddagh Ring Heart Taken

To show that your heart is taken, wear your Claddagh ring with the heart pointing towards your body

    Claddagh Ring Looking for Love

If you are free, single or looking for love, wear your ring with the heart pointing outward

Traditional Claddagh rings by My Irish Jeweler

At My Irish Jeweler, we have over 50 years experience handcrafting and sourcing the very finest Irish jewelry. Since 1963, our Claddagh rings have delighted customers around Ireland. In the last 10 years, we’ve brought the same quality and craft to our website and we now have the pleasure of delivering Claddagh rings worldwide.

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