November 2015

History of Claddagh Rings

Various legends attempt to explain the origin of the Claddagh ring. One of them is based on a woman from the Joyce clan called Margareth Joyce. She got married to Domingo de Rona, a Spanish merchant. Margareth went to Spain with him, but he died, leaving her a large amount of money. She came back to Ireland and married Oliver Ogffrench in 1596. Margareth then constructed bridges in Connacht with the wealth she had inherited from her previous marriage. All this she did out of charity and as a reward, an eagle flew above her and dropped a Claddagh ring on her lap.

Another tale is that of a young prince who had fallen in love with a maid. In order to convince her father that he was not after “using” her and that his affection was genuine, the prince designed the Claddagh ring. The hands represented friendship, the crown represented his loyalty, and the heart represented love. He then used this ring to propose to the maid. Upon hearing the explanation of the Claddagh Rings symbolism, the father finally gave his blessing to the union.

One legend that seems closer to historical truth is that of Richard Joyce, a man who lived in Galway and belonged to the Joyce clan. According to the legend, he left his home for the West Indies in pursuit of work. He intended to marry the love of his life when he returned. However, the ship he was sailing in got captured and he ended up being sold into slavery. Richard trained with his master, a Moorish goldsmith in his craft. During that time, William III ascended into the throne and demanded all British prisoners to be released by the Moors. Richard Joyce was finally set free. Due to the respect the goldsmith had for him, he offered Richard half of his wealth and his daughter if he stayed. Richard denied the offer and went back home to marry the love of his life. When staying with the Moors, Richard had forged the Claddagh ring to symbolize his love. Upon his return, he presented the ring to his love and they got married.