Irish Claddagh Rings
The original Claddagh ring is generally attributed to Richard Joyce of Galway. Joyce departed from Claddagh, a small fishing village where the waters of the River Corrib meet Galway Bay, on a ship enroute to the plantations of the West Indies. His ship was captured by Mediterranean Algerian pirates and the crew were sold as a slaves. Richard Joyce was sold to a Moorish goldsmith who trained Richard in his craft.
Richard Joyce soon became a master goldsmith, and handcrafted a ring for the woman at home he could not forget. In 1689, he was released after William III came to the throne of England and concluded an agreement whereby all his subjects who were held in captivity by the Moors were to be allowed return home.
The Moorish goldsmith offered Richard his only daughter in marriage and half his wealth if he would remain in Algiers. Richard declined and returned to Claddagh to find that the woman he loved had never married. He gave her the ring he had made, and they were married. He set up a goldsmith shop in the town and began making rings. The earliestto be traced bear his mark and the initial letters of his name.
According to tradition, the ring is taken to signify the wish that Love and friendship should reign supreme. The hands signify friendship, the crown loyalty, and the heart love. These rings were kept as heirlooms with great pride and passed from mother to daughter.
Today, the ring is worn extensively across Ireland, either on the right hand with the heart turned outwards showing that the wearer is fancy free, or with the heart turned inward to denote that he or she is spoken for. The pride of placement is on the left hand with the heart turned in, indicating that the wearer has found true love.