Are you in a serious romantic relationship or an undefined relationship that is filled with love and passion? Do you feel a special closeness with someone that you have never felt before? Are you looking for a way to recognize or signify your feelings without proposing marriage?
Human feelings and relationships are complicated. It is not always possible to put them in one category or another. Nor is it always possible to enter into a marriage or a domestic partnership with a soul mate. Sometimes, all you can do is show them how you feel. Giving them a Claddagh ring is one way of doing this.
A ring you have no doubt seen many times
You have probably seen a Claddagh ring on the fingers of many people. It is a small ring that consists of a band, a heart, and a crown. The band has on it two cupped hands holding a heart. A crown sits at the heart of the ring.
You may have thought the ring a thing that adolescents, and people playing at adolescence, give to one another. On the contrary, it has a specific meaning and a rich and interesting history.
Claddagh ring history
The ring is named after an ancient fishing village that was located in Galway, Ireland. Claddagh is derived from the Gaelic word “Cladach” which means stony beach. According to legend, a prominent family living in the Claddagh were captured by pirates while fishing.
They were taken to the north coast of Africa and sold into slavery. The youngest member of the family, Richard, had just fallen in love. The legend goes on to state that while captured he learned the goldsmith trade and worked in a shop.
He collected scraps of gold which he forged into a ring for his beloved, holding out the hope that one day he would see her again and give it to her.
After 14 years as a slave, he won his freedom, went back to Ireland, and reunited with his beloved, who had waited for him. He gave her the ring as a sign of his devotion.
While this is an interesting and truly romantic story, it has never been verified. However, there is ample evidence that the ring has its origins in Ireland.
Besides the name of the ring, its features are consistent with Irish design. And although many lovers exchange the ring as a sign of devotion, Irish tradition views it as a wedding ring.
Indeed, there are Irish families today in which mothers pass on their Claddagh rings to their daughters; and in some families, Claddagh rings are considered family heirlooms.
Claddagh ring meaning
The Claddagh ring symbolizes friendship, loyalty, and love. It can symbolize all three things at once. People who are in romantic relationships and intense friendships have exchanged Claddagh rings.
You can be married, single, or engaged when you wear this ring. Each of the three parts—heart, crown, and head—has its own meaning. The heart represents love, the crown loyalty, and the hands friendship. Taken together, these motifs can be viewed as a sign of commitment to a relationship.
You can also give a Claddagh ring for a more traditional purpose—as an engagement ring or wedding band. This is not such an uncommon practice.
Indeed, if the person you want to spend the rest of your life with is a bit of a minimalist when it comes to jewelry, if they are into wellness, spirituality, and New Age trends, then they may prefer a Claddagh ring to a traditional engagement ring.
It is possible to find Claddah rings in white gold, platinum, gold, rose gold, and palladium, all of which are very popular metals for engagement rings and wedding bands.
How to wear the Claddagh ring
Custom and tradition mandates that the ring be worn in a certain way. If you have received a Claddagh ring, you should try to follow these conventions. Here a few pointers to help you along the way:
- If you wear the ring on your left finger with the bottom of the heart pointing toward you, it signifies that you are married.
- If you wear the ring on your ring finger with the crown close to your wrist and the bottom of the heart pointing outward, then you are sending the message that you are engaged.
- If you wear the ring on your right hand, it shows that you are neither married nor engaged.
- If you have received a Claddagh ring from a friend with whom you are not romantically involved, then you should wear the ring on your right hand with the heart pointing out. Doing so sends the message that your heart is open to love.
- If you are in a relationship with someone, you should wear the ring on your right ring finger with the heart pointing toward you, which sends the message that someone has a claim on your heart.
Of course, you may have good reason to wear the ring on your ring finger even if you are not engaged or married. The above are not hard and fast rules, they are only conventions that people who are into Claddagh ring culture will know and care about.
If the person who gave you the ring is really into what the ring stands for, then you may want to reward their efforts by wearing the ring in the proper way.
Fun facts: the Claddagh ring in pop culture
Claddagh rings are more than just jewelry for people who live an alternative lifestyle. The ring has been embraced by royals, politicians, and celebrities. Here are few instances of this:
- Queen Victoria visited Ireland in 1849. She came back from the trip with a Claddagh ring that she passed down to one of her sons and his wife.
- Grace Kelly, the movie star turned princess of Monaco, and her husband King Rainier wore Claddagh rings. They also received a brooch and cuff links bearing the design when they visited Galway in 1962.
- When President John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy visited Galway, they received a matched set of Claddagh rings. And it is said that both Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill wore the rings at some point.
- Mega-star Julia Roberts has worn a Claddagh ring for years, though no one knows who gave it to her. Tate Donovan and Jennifer Aniston exchanged Claddagh rings; and Jude Law gave Sienna Miller a ring.
- U2 singer Bono has worn a Claddagh ring, as did Jim Morrison of the Doors, and most interestingly Walt Disney.
- The Claddagh ring featured prominently in the 1990s hit television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The main heroine of the series received a ring from her vampire boyfriend. The ring also made an appearance in the popular soap opera series Days of our Lives.
Is it the right thing to buy?
The Claddagh ring is at once highly ambiguous and filled with meaning. For some people, it can be an expression of love, passion, and life-long devotion. For others, it can symbolize friendship, loyalty, and affection. The latter is less intense than the former, which may be what you need if you are unsure of the next steps in your relationship.
Before you purchase a Claddagh ring for someone special in your life, you should consider what you know about them and how they may interpret the gift. You should also think carefully about what you intend to express by giving them the ring. Because a Claddagh ring is neither a promise ring nor an engagement ring, you can convey the meaning you intend to the special someone in your life.
If you are in an established relationship, and you intend to the Claddagh ring to be an engagement ring, you should think carefully before making this move.
It can be hard to discern your girlfriend’s taste in jewelry. It can also be difficult to tell whether she is a traditionalist when it comes to gestures related to marriage proposal and marriage itself. You can get some clues by observing the kind of rings and other jewelry she wears daily. You should also take a hint from her response to the engagement of her friends and relatives. If she gushes over gold bands and diamond, then she probably expects the same from you.
If, on the other hand, she rarely wears jewelry and expresses little enthusiasm for activities and gestures related to the marriage proposals, then you may be on the safer ground giving her a Claddagh engagement ring.
Even if you choose this kind of engagement ring, you should make it special. Indeed, not all Claddagh rings are plainly designed. It is possible to buy a Claddagh ring made of sterling silver, gold or white gold, with gemstones in the center. You can give her a ring that is elegant and distinguished. Something that will stand apart from other rings she may wear.
A Claddagh ring is a perfect way to express your feelings toward someone special in your life. It has a rich and interesting history, which has helped give it so much meaning.
If you have received a Claddagh ring, there are a cluster of conventions that suggest how it is to be worn. You should try to adhere to these out of respect to the person who gave it to you.
Many famous and powerful people have worn a Claddagh ring, making it a durable feature of culture and society. If you choose to buy a ring for romantic interest, you should think carefully about what you want it to mean. If you intend to use it as an engagement ring, you have many options.