This editor tends to be more romantic than the other, so when I opted to write our piece on Claddagh rings, I couldn’t help but talk about the embellished and romanticized version behind its origin. Legend has it that a fisherman by the name of Robert Joyce left his native town “Claddagh” in Galway (pictured, below right), on the western coast of Ireland, for the West Indies when his ship was taken over by pirates. He was forced into slavery and sold to a goldsmith. There, while perfecting his new craft, he designed the first Claddagh ring as a symbol of his undying love for his lassie back home. The two joining hands holding a heart represent friendship, the crown sitting atop the heart signifies loyalty and lasting fidelity, while the heart itself is the sign for eternal love and devotion. After years of imprisonment, Joyce finally gained his freedom when King William III ordered the release of all slaves in 1689. Joyce hoped to return to the arms of Margaret, his long lost love. There, he found her… still waiting. They spent the rest of their lives together without the Claddagh ever leaving Margaret’s hand. Whatever the legend may be about their romance and the ring, Joyce’s initials do appear on one of the oldest surviving Claddagh rings. Other rings of that era bare initials of another goldsmith named Thomas Meade.
The very first rings these editors were ever given were small, silver Claddaghs gifted to us by our Italian mother, who wanted us to be proud of our heritage and the history behind the Claddagh. (Which is interesting, because it belongs to a group of European rings called fede rings, which comes from the Italian phrase, “mani in fede,” meaning, “hands joined in faith or loyalty.” Also, traditionally, in the US and Ireland, Claddagh rings are supposed to be handed down mother to daughter, or grandmother to granddaughter.) Although our mom isn’t Irish at all, she always cherished its symbolism and history. The Claddagh hadn’t held significant meaning to this editor again, until thirteen years later, when my future husband gifted me a gold Claddagh ring for our one month anniversary. I still wear it with my matching pendant he got me later on. <3
Fun Fact: There are special meanings to the ring, depending on how the Claddagh is worn. If it’s worn on your left ring finger, with the heart facing you, you are married or, by all means, spoken for. If the heart is facing outward on the left ring finger, it means to you’re engaged. If you have a Claddagh ring on your right ring finger, with the heart facing inward, it means you’re in a relationship. And if the ring’s heart is facing outward on the right ring finger, it means you’re single and looking for love. Finally, if your Claddagh appears on any old finger, we guess it just represents Irish heritage. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!