The Claddagh is a Celtic design which features two hands holding a heart with a crown perched on top. The symbol is generally interpreted through a simple poem: ‘The hands are there for friendship/The heart is there for love/And for loyalty throughout the year/The crown is raised above.’ The manner of wearing the ring is believed to be just as symbolic, as wearing the ring on the left hand with the heart facing out signals engagement and facing in signals marriage, while on the right hand facing out means being single and facing in means being in a relationship. There are many legends concerning the origins of the symbol, but it is generally believed to have originated as an engagement ring in a small fishing village called Claddagh in Galway, Ireland.
For over 300 years, this ring has been a huge part of any Irish person’s wardrobe, men and women alike. And it’s no different for my parents, both immigrants from Ireland. The Claddagh that belonged to my mother was originally the engagement ring of my great grandmother, and was a beautiful, delicate gold piece with a miniature gem stone nestled in the heart’s center. As it was passed from my great grandmother to my grandmother to my mother and then to me, its symbolism changed, as did its location. In its path, the Claddagh moved all around Ireland and then crossed the Atlantic ocean, signifying how the bonds of love, family, tradition, and cultural identity are transcendental.
– Breffni Neary