The Claddagh Ring ...

The Claddagh Ring originated in the Claddagh fishing village near Galway City in the West of Ireland.

The ring shows two hands (representing friendship) presenting a heart (representing love) adorned by a crown (representing loyalty) and it is thus the traditional Irish wedding band.

The ring became popular outside the Claddagh about the middle of the last century, especially as it was claimed to be the only ring made in Ireland ever to be worn by Queen Victoria and later King Edward VII. 

It is daily growing in popularity because of its unique design, its peculiar history, its sentimental appeal and its close association with the ancient Claddagh of Galway. 

The story of the Claddagh is one of the most beautiful sentiments to come from the Irish culture.

There are several interesting versions of the origin design used in the Claddagh, two of which are associated with the "Joyce" family, one of the famous "Tribes of Galway." 

The version of Margaret Joyce ...

Margaret Joyce, surnamed Margaret of the Bridges, from the great number that she built, first married Domingo de Rona, a wealthy Spanish merchant who traded to Galway, where he fell in love with her. Soon after departing for Spain, he died there and left her his immense property. She subsequently married Oliver Ogffrench, who was mayor of Galway in 1596. During his absence on a voyage she built most of the bridges of Connacht at her own expense. One day, when reviewing this work, an eagle dropped a gold ring into her lap. It was preserved by her family in 1661 and was considered as a providential reward for her good works and charity. This ring could well have been the original Claddagh ring. 

The story of Richard Joyce is probably more factual...

The story began about 5 centuries ago in the fishing village of Claddagh, just outside the city of Galway. 

Many of them from the village would each day go to the sea, just as they do today, to catch food for their families and others in the village. It was dangerous to go out into the bay, some days the sea was high. Other days the current was strong. But worst of all, some days, there were pirates. 

One fateful day, a young man was at sea with other men from his family in their small boat when suddenly a Spanish pirate ship appeared. The men knew they were doomed. The pirates captured the men from Claddagh and brought them to the far off North Coast of Africa and sold them into slavery for what would surely be the rest of their lives. 

But the story can't end there... 

Richard, the youngest of those captured, was the most distraught. All men had left loved ones behind, however, Richard had only just come to know what true love was, and now, to have it stole away! Well, the years passed. Some of the men died. Others accepted their fate. But young Richard yearned each day as he toiled in slavery to return to his village and his beloved far away. Each day he stole a small speck of gold from his wretched Masters goldsmith shop where he was forced to tend the fires. And after a number of years, he was finally able to fashion a ring. He hoped and prayed that someday he would be able to bring the ring to his true love. It is not really know now whether young Richard escaped or earned his release from slavery. In any case, the day finally came and Richard began his long journey to the island in the North Atlantic known to us as Ireland and to Richard as home. 

When Richard finally completed his journey he was overjoyed to learn that love was true and that his Colleen had prayed and waited faithfully for his return. It was on this day that he ring that now is known in every corner of the world as the Claddagh Ring, for there is no sentiment more beautiful than the one Richard carried home with him in his heart and we celebrate in jewelry of all types. 

The heart symbolized the love he yearned to share...
the crown his undying loyalty...
and the hands, friendship because it is the foundation of love and loyalty
   and holds the two together. 

From that young man's life we all can take comfort that the goodness in one's heart can always conquer the evil of others. Evil is no match for the powers of love, loyalty and friendship. Pirates no longer sail the seas around Richard's island, but every day men leave the shores to fish knowing that they will, if the sea is not high and the currents not too strong, return to the ones who love them. 

Or More Likely ...

Richard Joyce, a native of Galway, he was captured by an Algerian corsair while on his way to the West Indies. At Algiers he was sold as a slave to a wealthy Moorish goldsmith, who found him tractable and ingenious in this trade in which he soon became an adept.

In 1689, William III of England sent an ambassador to Algiers demanding the release of all the British subjects detained there in slavery, with which demand the Dey reluctantly complied. 

The Moor offered Joyce his daughter in marriage and half his wealth as an inducement to remain but this offer was refused and Joyce returned to Galway. 

Here he set up as a goldsmith and prospered. He flourished as a craftsman in gold and silver in Galway up to about 1730.

Some of his work, including rings silver chalicies, stamped with his mark, an anchor signifying hope and initials R.I., is still in existence, much held in Museums and collections throughout Ireland.

Whether Joyce came upon the Claddagh symbolism on his travels or if it was originally his design we will never know. What we can ascertain is that the Claddagh Ring enjoys an antiquity of at least 300 years and Richard Joyce is the earliest known maker of this unique ring. 

And Then There's ... 

The Claddagh ring is so called because it is believed to have originated in the Claddagh, Galway, and is unique in as much as it is the only ring in the world of a distinctive design used exclusively by a small community for over 400 years.

 "Claddagh" means a village situated near the seashore. In Galway the village was outside the walls and was divided from the city by the River Corrib. It was irregularly built but very extensive. It was the first residence of the Celtic settlers in this area. They were an exclusive community and strangers were never allowed to settle amongst them. From time immemorial the Claddagh was ruled by one of its inhabitants, periodically elected, who was called King. 

He administered their laws and settled all their disputes according to old age customs. His only distinctive mark was a white sail at his masthead when the fishing fleet put out to sea.

The sole occupation of this colony was fishing; in fact, they were not allowed to use spade or hoe. The municipality compensated them for their fish by giving them sustenance in all their needs. 

The Claddagh was used by these people as a marriage ring.

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