The Claddagh ring is named after an old fishing settlement on Galway Bay. Here in The Claddagh, the people elected their own king refusing allegiance to any other.
It is believed that Mr. Joyce, a Galway goldsmith, made the first Claddagh rings around 1730. Later, Queen Victoria had a Claddagh ring specially made for her. King Edward the 7th wore one when he visited Ireland. In days gone by, Galway forged strong trading links with Spain, so it is thought that the original Claddagh design is Spanish.
Claddagh rings are also popular outside of Ireland. Highly prized in Brittany, they are used as wedding rings. The joined hands on the Claddagh ring denote friendship; the human heart, charity. And when lovers exchange Claddagh rings it means: “With these hands I give you my heart and crown it with all my love.”
Not surprisingly, during the Famine, many people sold their Claddagh rings for cash. But as the Claddagh ring wasn’t as fashionable then as it is today, many were sold for scrap. Sadly, hundreds of these beautiful old Irish Claddagh rings simply ended up in the melting pot.