You might have seen this symbol before but just never knew what it stood for. Well, let me share what I know about the Irish Claddagh.
The claddagh is likely the jewelry that holds the most meaning and symbolism out of any jewelry in the world. The wearing of the claddagh hasn't been a strong custom until recently with a resurgence of interest & pride in Irish customs. There exists some very old heirloom claddaghs.
The custom is for the mother to pass the claddagh on to the daughter who would marry first, thus going from generation to generation. (Men haven't traditionally worn claddaghs, but jewelers do have good selection of them for men, and Everette's talking about him and I both getting claddaghs. Maybe we should do that for our 25th Anny, to show that we are committed to one another hahaha!)
The claddaghs design and symbolism originated in an Irish fishing village called Claddagh, back in the 17th century. The original idea for the claddagh nobody is absolutely sure about. There are 3 theories. I think the most likely one is ....
"A native of Galway by the name of Richard Joyce was captured by the Algerians and sold as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith. Later in 1689 William III of England demanded the release of all British subjects and Richard Joyce was released from slavery too. The Moorish goldsmith offered Richard Joyce a major portion of his wealth and also his only daughter in marriage, if he agreed to stay in Algiers. The story goes that, Richard Joyce refused all the tempting offers and returned to his native city with the first Claddagh ring." (kai silver jewellers)
Supposedly, while in captivity, Richard Joyce created the first claddagh for his sweetheart an ocean away. Upon returning he married his love who had waited for 14 years for him to return. The claddagh had been designed with her in mind; their story is woven into the symbols of the ring.
The design is very distinctive, although there are slight variations. Its basic features are two hands clasping a heart, topped by a crown.
They supposedly represent Love, Friendship, and Loyalty. The hands of the ring are shown holding the heart and the hands denote friendship and togetherness, the heart itself signifies love and the crown stands for loyalty.
"The expression which was associated with these symbols in the giving of the ring was: "With my two hands I give you my heart, and crown it with my loyalty." Yet, the expression, "Let love and friendship reign forever" can be found as another meaning for the symbols." (Wikipedia)
A fascinating aspect to the significance of the claddagh is in how it is worn. I think this is what intrigued Layne and I years ago when she first got interested in it. The way it is worn is to convey the 'availability' (or not) of the wearer.
-When it is worn on the right hand with the heart facing outward, that shows that the wearer isn't in a relationship, but will consider one.
-When it is worn on the right hand but the heart is turned inwards towards the wearers heart, that means that their heart is 'captured' (taken)
-When worn on the left hand with heart facing outward that means the wearer is now engaged.
-When its worn on the left hand with heart pointing towards the heart of the wearer it means that they are now married.
Everette and I gave a silver claddagh ring to Layne for her 18th Birthday. It was something she personally was interested in having, so the great idea didn't originate with us parents!
Our heritage is not Irish, but my maternal ancestors were fierce Scotsman, so we are interested in all the Celtic stuff; Layne's attraction to the claddagh seemed quite natural. And now Layne and Micah have used her claddagh ring as the engagement ring. It was what Layne wanted, for the ring has meaning to her (besides, Layne doesn't even like diamonds!).
Today claddaghs are becoming quite popular and are showing up in art, movies, other pieces of jewelry (ie. earrings). They can be embellished with birthstones or diamonds, and are made in silver and gold.
Question for You: Does your family have something they consider an heirloom ie jewelry, furniture, pictures?