There probably isn’t a culture on the planet that isn’t instantly known by its art, whether this art is shared via song, dance, writings, paintings or exquisite jewelry designs. In fact, cultural artwork has been known to capture the traditions, both religious and secular, of an entire region or country. It’s this quality that Ireland’s artwork may be largely known for. Irish Claddagh rings express this blend of tradition and religion in poignant, yet simple, ways.
Traditional Meanings of Irish Claddagh Rings
The history of Claddagh rings stretches back to the 17th century. During those early years, Claddagh rings were exchanged as a way to express deep friendships as well as to express devout love they had for someone they had chosen to marry. The rings gained their name after they became associated with the town Claddagh, place close to the Corrib River and Galway City.
According to Ireland Fun Facts, “Claddagh rings traditionally carry a design showing a pair of hands holding a heart, which carries a crown on top of it. The heart is meant to symbolize love, the hands friendship and the crown loyalty. How one wears the ring is meant to send a message about either being romantically available or already taken.”
Furthermore, the position the ring is placed on while worn bears significance. For example, is the rings are worn on the right hand with the distinct designs turned away from the body, it may be assumed that the person wearing the ring is not in a serious romantic relationship. “Placement on the right hand, but facing inward means that one has fallen in love. Wearing the ring on the left hand with the design facing outward is meant to convey that the wearer is engaged, while having the ring on the left hand facing in means one is married,” according to Ireland Fun Facts.
As with many other cultural traditions, the wearing of Irish Claddagh rings started to become popular in America after Irish immigrants arrived. In fact, some Americans continue to exchange them when they marry. Other people pass the rings down to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, hoping to keep traditions they have been practicing for generations alive.
Colors and material that the rings generally are made in today are silver and gold. Sterling or classic silver rings are designed with knot work or a Marcasite. Some of the rings are designed with woven bands, while others are designed with wide or narrow bands. Emeralds, diamonds and birthstones are also embedded in some of the rings, both friendship and wedding rings.
On the pricier end, the rings can cost nearly $700, while less expensive rings can be purchased for less than $40. As with any ring, it’s important to get accurate ring and finger measurements before settling on a specific ring. Although some retailers offer lower prices on rings that are purchased over the Internet, people who choose this option are encouraged to check shipping costs, look for deals and discounts they could take advantage of and ask about customer guarantee and return policies.
By Erin McMahon