The original Claddagh
You’ve seen the design, it’s an icon of Ireland herself: The Claddagh Ring.
The origin of the ring’s design has various stories, but its production can be traced to Thomas Dillon’s jewelers in Galway. There is a one-room exhibit on the history of the ring set up inside the shop and numerous examples of the ring for sale in various metals and designs.
Back in the states, I have heard the design referred to as “an Irish wedding band.” It is not, actually, used as a wedding ring here in Ireland. It is the sort of thing a girl will wear before she’s married. Mothers hand down these rings to their daughters. The design represents a marriage of three virtues: friendship (symbolised by the two hands), love (symbolised by the heart) and fidelity (symbolised by the crown).
Wearing the ring on one’s right hand indicates the wearer is single. Wearing it with the crown turned outward symbolises that the wearer is being courted. Wearing the ring on the left hand indicates a romantic engagement. Worn with the crown turned outward on the left hand indicates marriage.
Want an authentic claddagh ring? There’s only one place they’re made: Thomas Dillon’s in Galway.