What Is a Claddagh Ring?

If you’re of Irish heritage or know of someone who is, you’ve likely heard the term “Claddagh” before. Now widely regarded as a symbol of Ireland, the Claddagh is a popular motif used in jewelry, particularly in ring designs. To help you understand precisely what a Claddagh ring is, our team of jewelry experts has put together this handy guide.

The History

The tradition of Claddagh rings can be traced back to the Georgian period of the 18th century, according to Antique Jewelry University. The rings were originally created by jewelers in Claddagh, Ireland, a small village located near Galway. Originally, Claddagh rings were used to denote a woman’s marital status to let men in the village know whether or not she was eligible to court. As people moved from Claddagh into the surrounding areas in Ireland and abroad, the trend of wearing Claddagh rings spread, eventually making its way here to the U.S., where the rings remain popular to this day.

The Symbol

The Claddagh symbol has its roots in the traditional “fede” rings worn by the Ancient Romans. Shaped like a pair of clasped hands, these rings were exchanged to symbolize a legal contract, including that of marriage. The Irish jewelers who created the first Claddagh designs took the motif of clasped hands from the fede and added a heart to symbolize love. The heart appears to be wearing a crown, which serves a symbol of fidelity. Because of its place in Irish culture, the Claddagh is now thought to represent Ireland in general, so many people purchase the rings to show their pride in their heritage.

Wearing a Claddagh Ring

Nowadays, Claddagh rings can be worn on any finger and on either hand, but traditionally, the way that a woman wore a Claddagh held great importance. A single lady wore the Claddagh on her right hand with the point of the heart facing away from her, and when she entered a relationship, she turned the ring in the opposite direction to point toward her heart. After becoming engaged, an Irish lass would move the ring to her left hand with the point facing out, and during her wedding ceremony, her husband would remove the ring and replace it on her finger with the heart oriented in the direction of her heart.

Types of Claddagh Rings

Although originally Celtic jewelry collections featured only Claddagh rings for women, many jewelers now make mens Claddagh ring designs as well. A Claddagh ring can be a simple silver, gold or platinum band or be accented by gemstones, such as emeralds, diamonds or a person’s birthstone. For brides and grooms, Claddagh engagement rings and wedding bands are extremely popular, as they represent both loyalty and romance.

There you have it–the answer to the question “What is a Claddagh ring?” Now that you have an education on all things Claddagh, you may want to consider purchasing a beautiful Claddagh ring for yourself or to give as a gift to someone special.