The wedding ring is a universally recognized sign that a person is "taken," and not available to members of the opposite sex. Among the Irish, the Claddagh ring is cherished as a wedding ring, a friendship ring, and more. The Claddagh design is used on everything from jewelry to mailboxes, and then some.
There are some good stories behind the Claddagh Irish wedding ring. The Claddagh has become a symbol for Ireland and things Irish as much as the Blarney stone and the little people.
There are many romantic tales about the history of the Claddagh symbol. One version relates a 17th-century story of a Richard Joyce, who shortly before his wedding was captured by pirates and taken into slavery. While a captive, he spent his time crafting a beautiful ring for his beloved with two hands holding a heart with a crown on it, symbolizing love, friendship, and loyalty. The two were later reunited, and he presented the ring to his bride at their delayed nuptials.
Another version, and perhaps an extension of the former legend, describes how the Galway fishing village of Claddagh made the design as a sigil to be used on the sides and sails of the Claddagh fleet to identify other of their own ships.
The Fenian Claddagh is another type of Claddagh ring that has two hands holding a heart, but without the crown. This is also called the Dublin Claddagh.
For the devout, perhaps this meaning will please: the crown for Gor the Father, the left hand for God the Son, and the right hand for God the Holy Spirit. This symbolism is reminiscent of the story of the shamrock, which is what is said to have been used by Saint Patrick to explain the Mystery of the Trinity to the Irish High Kings, wooing them from Druidism to Christianity.
The Wearing of the Claddagh
If you're free, wear your Claddagh ring on the right hand with the bottom of the heart pointing out.
When you're serious, wear your Claddagh on the right hand with the bottom of the heart pointing up.
When you're engaged, the ring goes on the third finger of the left hand, with the heart pointing out.
After the wedding, the ring is on the wedding finger with the heart pointing to your heart.
Now the next time you see the Claddagh design, you will know that it is a treasured icon in Irish culture---of a love that has come to us from long ago, as a means for seamen to know their own on the lonely seas, of secret civic rebellion, and of spiritual understanding---through more hard times than good, but as an enduring symbol of the Irish identity.
Claddagh Rings from Irish Celtic Jewels