The History of Symbolism, Legend & Lore
History of Claddagh Jewelry
Claddagh jewelry is modeled after claddagh ring, which first surfaced in Ireland more than 400 years ago. The claddagh ring has a rich history; if you aren't familiar already, claddagh ring is shaped to resemble two hands grasping a heart with a crown on top. Legend & lore has several explanations for creation of this unique and popular pattern.
One legend is that a man named Richard Joyce while on a voyage to Mediterranean was captured by Armenian pirates, and spend years in captivity as a result. While held captive he learned skills necessary to become an artificer of precious metals. Joyce eventually was returned to his homeland, despite protests from his owner, who had wished he would marry his daughter. Joyce pursued a career in crafting gold and silver jewelry.
Many myths abound as to how Joyce came up with symbolism he used in his claddagh jewelry, but true origins are not known.
Yet another legend follows a similar story; it tells tale of Richard, a young man who was kidnapped by Spanish pirates one day while fishing with other men in his family. Richard and his family were sold into slavery off North Coast of Africa. Just before being captured Richard had met his true love, and lived in fear that he would never see her again. Richard longed for his beloved, and each day to remember her he stole a minute amount of gold from slave masters shop where he worked. After years had passed he was able to create a ring with gold he gathered. Richard's hope was that one day, if freed, he could present day to his love. One day Richard was able to return to Ireland, and found his beloved awaiting him. He offered her claddagh ring for her devotion and patience.
The second story regarding origin of this style ring and other claddagh jewelry is much more highly regarded, because among other things claddagh jewelry has come to symbolize love and devotion.
Claddagh jewelry has become very popular in Ireland over centuries, and many of pieces fashioned after this style are often kept as heirlooms among family members. At time of Joyce there was a Claddagh village, which remained as a self contained community until about 70 years ago. Jewelry fashioned in claddagh style is considered part of Irish legend & lore, and remains an important part of Irish history. Today claddagh jewelry is worn as a symbol of Irish heritage, friendship, unity and love among people in all cultures.
Tradition has it that if a claddagh ring is worn on right hand, with crown turned inward wearer is still searching for love; if crown is worn facing outward love is in air. For those that wear ring on left of course, a person is said to be spoken for.
Celtic Jewelry Traditions
Celtic jewelry, like claddagh jewelry is rich in history and tradition. The term "Celtic" typically refers to people who are descendants of different provinces of western Europe, who lived during time around birth of Christ. Most Celtic history, legend & lore have been passed down from generation to generation via word of mouth, or through artwork and symbolism. Much celtic jewelry displays symbolism that represents life, death, change of seasons, love and human spirit. Celtic jewelry is often embedded with many symbols that have been passed down from as early as 8th century B.C.