What do hookers and the Irish Claddagh ring have in common? A romantic history steeped in tradition and loyalty.

The ring, made up of a heart (representing love), a crown (symbolizing loyalty and commitment), and two hands and comes from the 17th century from the Claddagh village in Galway, Ireland.

There are several legends of where the Claddagh ring originates, but most stories agree that the ring was first created in the Claddagh, an old fishing village near Galway City. ‘Hookers’, is the traditional name for the old sailing boats used by local fisherman in the area, and every year the Blessing of the Bay Festival is held at the start of herring season since 1488. Today, modern yachts and boats join the hookers in August and are blessed by a priest who performs the blessing on one of the boats and rings a bell, signaling local altar boys to sing. The boats parade around the bay in a stunning tour while tourists and locals join in the festivities.

Although there are many versions of the legend, the ring stands for fidelity, love and romance in Irish culture. One of the most popular stories tells the love story of Richard Joyce, a sailor from the village of Claddagh who set sail for the West Indies in the 17th century. Joyce and his entire crew were kidnapped by pirates and were sold into slavery along the way. He was bought by a goldsmith and became an expert jewelry maker under his master’s tutelage until 1689 when an amnesty was declared and William II, King of England, demanded the release of all slaves in the kingdom.

 

 

During his time as a slave, Joyce’s master was so impressed by him that he offered Joyce half of his wealth and his daughter’s hand in marriage. However, Joyce longed to be reunited with his lover back home in Claddagh, and while it is unknown whether he was released, or escaped, but when he returned home to his village he found his beloved waiting.

When he arrived, he presented her with a gift which could have gotten him killed. Each day as a slave he had stolen a tiny bit of gold from his master, which he eventually used to design a special ring for her. He married his lady and started a goldsmith shop where he created many “Claddagh” rings, and the famous Irish tradition was born.

If you’re lucky enough to have a Claddagh ring, make sure you wear it properly since it tells the world whether you are taken or available.

If you are Single

If you are single and looking for love, wear your ring on the ring finger of your right hand, with the heart facing outwards.

Resized Claddagh

 

If you’re Single but Taken

Wear your ring with the heart facing toward your heart to show that you’re involved. Make sure the heart points towards the center of your hand. Until you are engaged, the ring stays on your right ring finger.

Resized Claddagh 3

If you’re Engaged

Once you’re engaged, wear the Claddagh on the ring finger of your left hand to tell the world you’re no longer available for dating.

If you’re Married

Once married your special ring is worn with the heart facing in. Many people choose to use the Claddagh ring as a wedding band and change the direction of the heart during the wedding ceremony.

Do you wear a Claddagh ring or another ring that represents a special tradition?