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One of Ireland’s most famous design classics is the Claddagh Ring. The design is comprised of a Heart symbolising Love, Hands for Friendship and Crown for Loyalty. If the ring is worn with the Heart facing inward it means the wearer’s Heart is taken. Worn with the Heart facing outwards it means their Heart is free.
The Claddagh is an area in Galway close to the City Centre. The ring was created by a man called Richard Joyce in the late 1600s. He was a trader and an importer of goods for sale. His ship was captured by pirates on one of his expeditions and he was sold into slavery in North Africa.
He was kept there for 10 years and was eventually released. On his return to Galway he was overjoyed to find that his fiancée had waited for him and he made the ring in honour of her Love, Loyalty and Friendship. The design became popular and was adopted by people all over the world.
The original rings were made in Gold, the most common metal nowadays is Sterling Silver. The design varies between maker to maker – the core elements of Heart, Hands and Crown are always there but the layout can be a little bit different. Some beautiful rings are made with Gold, Emeralds and Diamonds – always check the Hallmark on these rings.
The Hallmark is made by the Assay Office in Dublin Castle – the ring maker must submit the ring for inspection – the metal is tested and then stamped if everything is correct. The Hallmark contains the Makers Mark, the Lady Hibernia Symbol and the purity of the metal. Hallmarking is one of the oldest forms of consumer protection.
You don’t have to be Irish to wear a Claddagh Ring – all you need in your heart is Love, Loyalty and Friendship – then you can wear your ring with pride.