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The Hands, the Heart and the Crown: The Meaning Behind Claddagh Rings

The Claddagh is associated with Ireland, but this historic design has its origins in the Roman Empire.

If you want to give a token of your friendship, love and commitment that brings with it centuries of heritage and meaning, the Claddagh ring may be the choice for you. The well-known ring design features two hands (symbolizing friendship) holding a heart (symbolizing love) often topped with a crown (which stands for loyalty), and in various forms, it has been a favorite way of expressing love since Roman times.

Though the design originates from the Roman Empire and became popular as engagement and wedding rings during the Renaissance, the Claddagh ring in its modern form is largely recognized as a Celtic symbol and icon of Irish heritage. The design widely recognized today originated in the city of Galway, Ireland, in the late 1600s.

The meaning behind Claddagh rings

Centuries ago, mothers or grandmothers often presented their Claddagh rings to their daughters or granddaughters when they came of age or on their wedding days. Today, people give Claddagh rings for many reasons:

  • Promise or engagement rings: Many people choose to give or wear Claddagh rings as a commitment of love or marriage. Wearing the ring on the right hand, with the bottom of the heart pointing toward the wearer, signifies that the wearer is dating; wearing it on the left hand with the heart pointing up means the wearer is engaged. These rings are often embellished with diamonds or emeralds.
  • Friendship: Good friends give each other Claddagh rings as a way to symbolize hope, including as a way to help the wearer open her heart to love. Wearing the ring on the right hand with the bottom point of the heart facing away from the wearer signifies the wearer is single.
  • Irish heritage: People descended from Irish ancestry often wear the rings as symbols of pride or affiliation with their heritage.

Style variations

While Claddagh rings always feature the motif of two hands holding a heart, there are a number of ways to personalize a Claddagh ring and make it unique. A few options include:

  • Fenian rings: This style of Claddagh does not have a crown on top of the heart. The crown was eliminated from the design in the 1800s to express Ireland’s wish to be free of British rule.
  • Claddagh puzzle rings: These rings offer a more complex design and a little extra mystery, with interlocking rings held together by a bolt that the owner can twist apart.
  • Men’s rings: Claddagh rings are popular for men too. Men’s styles tend to be thicker and heavier, often with the design carved into a straight band.
  • Color gemstones: Add a personal touch to the Claddagh ring by swapping the metal heart with a heart-shaped color gemstone, perhaps in the wearer’s birthstone.
  • Added symbolism: You can also find Claddagh jewelry with Celtic symbols like the infinity knot and the Irish symbol of continuity.

Other choices

The Claddagh symbol is also available on a variety of jewelry styles: bracelets, earrings and necklaces can all be found. Regardless of the style you choose, one thing is for certain: the meaning and history behind Claddagh rings make them beloved treasures for the people who receive and wear them.

Ready to shop? See Claddagh rings and other Claddagh-inspired jewelry at Kay Jewelers and Jared The Galleria Of Jewlery.

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