The Claddagh Symbol and Meanings
In the early 16th century an Irish man by the name of Richard Joyce was fishing off the coast of Galway a week before he was to be married when his currach (boat) capsized. Richard was captured by pirates, taken to West Africa and sold into slavery to a Moorish goldsmith. Years passed and Richard escaped captivity and returned home to Ireland to find that the girl he loved had never married. Richard shaped a unique ring for the girl he left behind. The ring was fashioned of three symbols; the hands signifying Friendship, holding a heart signifying love, topped with a crown for loyalty. Richard and his love married and settled in the village of Claddagh. The village no longer exists but since those early days the Claddagh ring has been worn as a sign of Love, Loyalty and Friendship. When wearing the ring the heart pointed toward you means your heart is taken: the heart pointed away from you means your heart is free. Worn on the left ring finger, heart pointed toward you represents a wedding band. Although traditionally used as a wedding band, the Claddagh ring has come to be worn as a friendship ring as well.