The History of The Irish Claddagh
The history of the Irish Claddagh goes back to the 16th century. Richard Joyce, a native of County Galway, was captured by Algerians while on his way to the West Indies. He was sold as a slave to a wealthy Moorish goldsmith, who trained him in the art. His master became very fond of him and offered him his freedom whence he returned to Ireland and settled in the ancient Celtic village of Claddagh, just outside Galway City. He designed and made the first Irish Claddagh ring, which soon became very popular as an Irish betrothal or wedding symbol.
The Claddagh ring is believed to have originated in the seaside fishing village of Claddagh, County Galway, and it is the only ring of a symbolic design that has been exclusively used by one nationality for over four centuries. The Irish word Claddagh means 'village situated near the seashore', and it was the first residence of Celtic settlers in that area. Strangers were never allowed to settle in this very private community. The village was ruled by one of their residents, a king who was elected periodically, and who settled the disputes according to ancient customs. The only livelihood of this village was fishing and the fishermens' catch was traded off to the village for sustaining their needs.
Today the Claddagh continues to grow in popularity and is world renowned as a sign of great friendship and love. The Claddagh wedding ring is very popular in Ireland and with people of Irish ancestry. The Claddagh symbols of the heart, the crown and the hands stand for Love, Loyalty and Friendship. There are special customs to be followed in the wearing of the Claddagh ring. A Claddagh resident must not buy his/her own ring; it must be given as a gift. If married, the ring is worn with the heart facing inward, meaning that your heart has been pledged; and, if single, the heart should be facing outward to show that you are available.
The ring became popular outside of Claddagh circa 1850 and it was the only ring made in Ireland ever worn by Queen Victoria. Today, the Irish Claddagh symbol is used in a large number of items whether it be other jewelry, belt buckles or door knockers. It has grown in popularity due to it's symbolic design, unique history and Irish pride.
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