Today’s society is extremely fashion and style conscious. Most styles and trends are in one day and out the next, from clothing, jewelry, and accessories. However some trends are timeless and never go out of style, like the Irish Claddagh ring. But what is the origin of the jewelry and why is it still such a popular trend today? All these questions can be explained by looking at the origin, legends, meaning, and usage of the ring.
The history of the Claddagh ring is surrounded in uncertainty due to the many popular folk stories that circulating around the origins of the ring.
However what we do know for certain is that the ring originated from the Irish town of Claddagh(cite48). Claddagh was a small fishing village outside the city of Galway (cite48). This is where the name of the ring comes from. As with most story there are always many variations, in the case of the Claddagh ring and its origins there are numerous.
One variation is how Margaret Joyce took the fortune inherited from her late husband, a Spanish merchant, and used it for charitable causes. She was reward for her charitably when a eagle one day dropped the the original Claddagh ring into her lap. cite48)
The most likely legend of the rings origin is generally attributed to Richard Joyce. It goes that around 1675 Joyce was captured by Algerian pirates and sold as a slave while traveling to the West Indies. Joyce was sold to a Turkish goldsmith who taught him his craft.
Joyce was released after William III was accession to the throne of England in 1689 and released all prisoners held captive by the Moors. Joyce served his master for fourteen years and when released his master offered half his wealth and his daughters hand in marriage if Joyce would continue to practice under him.
Joyce declined this offer and returned to Claddagh where he married, had his on business as a silversmith and created the first Claddagh ring. The historical facts from this version of the story hold more truth to the origins of the ring then any other legend given that King William III did in fact release all Moors’ slaves. (cite 48 49) The Claddagh ring has a distinctive design. It features two hands clasping a heart that is surmounted with a crown. The ring itself is a symbol of love and marriage. Its believed that the heart represents love, the hand friendship, and the crown loyalty(cite 49).
Going back to Richard Joyce if he is, and mostly likely was, the creator of the Claddagh ring the design itself depicts his loyalty and love of his country, since he did refused his masters offers to come home to Ireland. The Claddagh ring when created was used as a wedding or betrothal ring passed down from mother to daughter during a time of marriage (cite 49). This tradition it ensured the survival of the ring. (cite 49. ) The rings unique design also ensured its survival because it could be worn by both sex since it represents friendship and loyalty.
Claddagh rings are still a expression of romance today. Today you can find the Claddagh symbol on different types of Celtic crosses, pendants, candles, and other jewelry. Its popularity in today’s society has been boosted threw media and pop culture, with celebrities wearing the ring and movies like Ladder 41, which describes how they way in which one wears the ring shows if they are in love or still open to friendship. Regardless of which legend of how the ring originated is true the facts is that the Claddagh ring has survived through history, keeping a symbolic meaning that is still significant.
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