Teach Through Educational Travel: Claddagh Ring

The Claddagh Ring is a traditional symbol from Ireland. The ring, first made in the 17th century, comes from a small village near Galway, called Claddagh. There are three components to the ring, each of which symbolize something cherished – a crown, hands, and heart. The crown represents loyalty; the hands represent friendship; and the heart represents love. These types of ring, ones showing clasped hands, are ancient designs called fede (faith) rings. The clasped hands in the rings show that you pledge your vows, and were often used as wedding rings since medieval times in Europe. The Claddagh Ring is still very popular today, and is used for friendship rings, wedding rings, engagement rings, mother’s day rings – any occasion where you want to show love, friendship, and loyalty. It is said that of the 3,000 people killed at the Twin Towers on 9/11, 1/3 were of Irish Ancestry. In fact, over 200 Claddagh Rings were reclaimed from Ground Zero, many from Irish-American firefighters and policemen.

Teach Through Educational Travel

  • Watch this video of old pictures of Galway and Claddagh Village. When you look at such humble homes, you can, indeed, feel that a ring of precious metal would, indeed, be a gift beyond price.
  • Read this history of the creation of the Claddagh Ring – including two competing origin myths! If you’re extremely interested, Irish author Malachy McCourt has written an entire book on this subject, called The Claddagh Ring: Ireland’s Cherished Symbol of Friendship, Loyalty & Love. Do you think that historical stories change, as they are handed down? What is the impact of the listener’s beliefs and culture, when hearing and then passing along a story?
  • Look at this photo of an early fede ring, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and then compare it to a Claddagh ring made a few centuries later. Can you name other enduring symbols of love and friendship?
  • How you wear your Claddagh Ring is an art unto itself! If you wear the ring on your right hand, with the heart facing out, it means you’re available. If you wear it on the right hand with the heart pointing in, it means you’re in a relationship. If you wear it on your left hand, facing in, it means you’re engaged. If you wear it on your left hand with your heart pointing in, it means you’ve found your true love.