Irish Claddagh Rings
On this page find out about traditions associated with the Irish Claddagh ring. You might be in for a surprise. The ring traditions are pretty simple! These original traditions we write about here have been embellished a lot by salesmen and advertisers. But here is the real deal, told to you by the owner of the oldest license for making this ring.
Jonathan, tell us about the traditions associated with Irish Claddagh rings.
There are some misunderstandings about traditions of Irish
Claddagh rings. A lot of people these days buy the ring for themselves, and it
is an absolute myth that you shouldn’t. It is perfectly fine to buy a ring for
If you are in a relationship, you wear it in such a way that
the point of the heart faces your body. If there is no significant other and
you are available for a love relationship, the point of the heart faces out the
way as if you were giving it away. This is the only tradition there is
around the Claddagh ring. A lot of embellishments have been invented by
jewellery traders who like to mystify the story, but this is the only original
Irish Claddagh rings custom.
As to traditions of making the rings, there are all sorts of
Claddagh rings available these days, for example diamond Claddagh rings or
rings with other precious stones, ones that are embellished and decorated and
what not. Personally I think that when you are making Irish Claddagh rings like
that you are taking away from them.
I chose to stick with the traditional design, a
simple gold Claddagh ring, or a simple silver Claddagh ring. Richard Joyce was
a silversmith, and these are the types of rings he made, simple ones. I find
that often, less is more in terms of design. I also like to stick close to
tradition. In fact, my business is built around it.
Poster commissioned by Jonathan for the 250th anniversary of
T. Dillon's and Sons, the company behind the original Claddagh ring.
The poster is exhibited in the shops museum, a room at the
back that contains antique rings like the gold Claddagh ring shown below, and
associated items such as tools and documentation relating to commissions. Entry
to the museum is free.
Why is the ring called a Claddagh ring?
If the truth be told, nobody knows why it is called Claddagh
ring. Funnily enough, the Claddagh people are the only ones who don’t use that
word. They call it ‘heart and hands ring’.
A mid-1800's travel novel written by a pair of English
tourists is often credited with coining the term Claddagh ring. In their
writings, they talked about seeing practically everyone they met in the
Claddagh wear these rings in gold. In reality, Claddagh people were very poor
and it seems likely that they wore lesser alloys.
The ring was never made in the Claddagh by the way. It was made across the river from there, in the town of Galway.
But the Claddagh people, too, wore it as a wedding band, probably from the mid seventeen hundreds on.
Who buys Irish Claddagh rings these days, Jonathan?
The wedding band business is only a small percentage of the
business. Only about one in fifty customers will buy it as a wedding band.
Instead, the ring has become a symbol for Irishness. Some young Irish people
buy it before they emigrate. They want to be seen as fun loving, easygoing,
intellectual and great craic, all these things that are associated with
Irishness these days. The Claddagh ring helps them to be recognised as being
Young Americans of Irish descent love the ring.
Owning it, for them is like owning a piece of Ireland. It makes them feel more
Young people also like the idea of the tradition
around the ring. They like that wearing the ring in the appropriate direction
enables you to tell the world without words whether you are available for a
relationship or not.
More About The Irish Ring
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Thanks so much and warmest regards from Ireland from Susanna and Colm.
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