Along the west coast of Ireland, is the walled city of Galway. On the outside of the walls, just on the banks of Galway Bay, was the fishing village of Claddagh. It has not been a fishing village since the 1930’s, yet the legend of the Claddagh ring, which originated there, continues to live on in the hearts of men and women alike.
The story is a romantic one concerning a fisherman of Claddagh, Richard Joyce, who was kidnapped by pirates as he fished one day. He was eventually sold as a slave to a goldsmith. A quick study, Richard Joyce learned this trade very well but he longed to be with his one true love back in his village. Heartsick, he crafted a very special ring for her. With a heart, a crown, and hands designed on the ring, it came to symbolize love, loyalty, and friendship to him. And when he was finally released and returned to Claddagh, his place of birth, he found that his true love had waited for him. Her devotion to him was rewarded with the ring and they were married at once.
The true Irish Claddagh bears a mark of authenticity, which cannot be imitated. A genuine Irish Claddagh is one that is handcrafted in Ireland, assayed in Dublin Castle and hallmarked by the Irish Assay master.
The assay and hallmark in a Claddagh can tell the owner the karat of gold or fineness of silver as well as the year in which it was made and most important it proves it is Irish.
The Claddagh ring is known as a Faith Ring. In this beautifully crafted design, a pair of hands gently hold a perfectly formed heart. Atop the heart is an unmistakable crown. It is said that the heart is for love, the hands for friendship, and the crown for loyalty. Its symbolism is a touching example of one man’s love for his beloved.
The Celtic Claddagh ring became a very popular design and is still worn today. It is worn on the right hand. If the woman has not yet found the love of her life, she wears the ring with the heart pointing away from her. The heart is worn inward when she has found the man whom she will marry. On her wedding day, the ring is then transferred to her left hand.
Celtic rings are as intricately designed as the history behind them. As the stories of old are woven into the hearts of man and woman, so too the rings bear the delicate complexity of geometric designs woven into them. One such artistic arrangement is the Celtic knot ring. Some of these rings have triple knots, Triskeles, on the sides of them. Others are in a triangular pattern and still others appear as a braided knot.