Meanwhile, in Ireland – Richard Joyce and the Claddagh Ring

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

The Village of Claddagh, or An Cladach (Pronounced Awn Klaw+Duh), sat relatively isolated from the rest of Ireland for centuries, despite being just across the river from Galway City, perhaps the most metropolitan city in Ireland, apart from Dublin. In this tiny fishing village, time stood still, even up until it became absorbed into Galway City as the city continued growing. 

Here, a unique Irish dialect was spoken. The isolation of the village meant that it developed separately from the rest of Connacht, the westernmost province, and the rest of Ireland. It was said that the Irish Language speakers from the rest of the country could seldom understand what was being spoken. Claddagh Irish was the most unadulterated dialect because of the isolation of the village. 

It was from here in this village of the Claddagh that a very special piece of jewelry, especially among Irish women, came. 

Long ago there was a man named Richard Joyce who lived in the Claddagh village. He was a metalworker of skill, who was set to be married. But at dawn on the morning of his wedding, tragedy struck. He was caught up in the middle of an attack, while out on the sea, and a band of pirates captured him. 

He was taken far away from Ireland, and far from his beloved. He was sold to a lord somewhere in the North of Africa. This lord was also noted for his skills in metalworking, and he saw the potential in Joyce, so he took the man under his wing and made him an apprentice. He taught Joyce all he knew about working with fine metals, especially with gold. 

After being there for a time, and gaining more skill in the art of goldsmithing, he saved scraps of gold from his work until he had enough to craft a ring of his own. He forged a delicate ring for his lover back in Ireland, a ring that featured three things. 

The first was a heart, this represented his love. The second was hands that held the heart, and this represented the friendship they long had forged. Finally, the third was a crown, and this represented loyalty. His loyalty was soon tested before he could send this ring home to his lover.

Now, the lord he worked for had a daughter. This daughter had begun to fall in love with Joyce while he lived with them. The lord, upon learning of her love for Joyce, approached him and asked him if he would marry his daughter. The lord had grown to care for Joyce as his own, a part of his family, but he, as well as his daughter, left him to decide. 

Joyce, with his newly forged ring, turned his eyes back to Ireland, to his lover. And so the lord aided him in sending the ring to her. There it found her, waiting for him, hopeful for his return, even after years of being apart. The ring, and the letter that he sent along with it, promised that he would return to her soon and that she was his whole world. 

Richard was released from his servitude some time later, and he returned home to Ireland and to his beloved who now wore his ring as a promise of their eternal and undying love. The two were reunited and married shortly thereafter and lived happily ever after. 

Seeing this display of love, it became a tradition for other girls in the Claddagh to follow suit, and eventually, the tradition, especially for a girl to receive her first ring passed down from her mother or grandmother, upon turning 16, which in Irish tradition was marrying age, spread throughout Ireland, and now has become a global tradition among those with Irish blood or even simply have a love for the culture. 

The traditional ring is crafted of gold, to replicate what Richard Joyce had made, however many wear silver as well. Rings adorned with stones and gems are also popular in the modern day. The three aspects of it remain, though, as the three key components of any successful relationship… love, loyalty, and friendship. Grá, Dílseacht, agus Cairdeas (Pronounced Graw, Djeel+Shockt aw+gus Kahr+Djus).

The correct way to wear the ring, and what each wearing position means, is as such:

Right hand, heart facing outward (top left) means a girl is single.

Right hand, heart facing inward (top right) means a girl is in a relationship, dating as it were.

Left hand, heart facing outward (bottom left) means that she is engaged to be married.

Left hand, heart facing inward (bottom right), means that she is married. 

NOTE: It is considered to be bad luck if one buys their own ring! It is meant to be gifted, or your future relationships, while you possess that ring, will be cursed. According to the stories, that is.