The Claddagh (pronounced clah-dah) ring is a piece of jewelry fashioned into two hands clasping a heart and on some you'll see a crown on top of the heart. Although the story behind this wedding ring and its history is filled with conjecture, the underlying sentiment of how this ring came to be remains the same.
The most repeated account is that of Richard Joyce, a master goldsmith, who was seized by pirates near the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, near the Galway Bay. Richard was forced into slavery using his goldsmith skills. After several years, King Richard III secured Joyce’s release and returned him to Galway and with him the idea for a ring. Richard Joyce's ring contained two hands (friendship), a heart (love) and a crown (loyalty). The saying, "Let Love And Friendship Reign", soon became synonymous with the Claddagh ring.
Another version references a lady, named Margaret Joyce, who married a rich Spanish merchant who traded in Galway. Margaret resided in Spain with her husband until his passing. She returned to Galway with her husband’s fortune; where she proceeded to build bridges from Galway to Sligo. One day an eagle dropped the Claddagh ring in her lap as a reward for her charity and good works.
Traditionally this historic Irish ring was handed down from mother to daughter. But with the sentiment of friendship, love and loyalty, the Claddagh soon became popular among the Irish as an engagement or wedding ring. This piece of wedding jewelry expresses the ultimate foundation of love between a couple – undying loyalty, friendship and love. This wedding tradition is an everlasting symbol of love and marriage.