Irish Claddagh Rings
The Claddagh Ring Story of Galway Ireland and related Claddagh history
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Irish Claddagh Rings :: Claddagh Ring Story

The Claddagh Ring Story

     Irish Claddagh Rings have become a piece of jewelry wholly synonymous with both the land and the loyalty of the Irish people.  The Claddagh Ring story starts at the rings namesake, a small village in Ireland near the city of Galway.  The city is of course spelled Claddagh and pronounced Klada.  The motto of this Irish ring is “Let love and friendship reign. 

     The origin of the Irish symbol is steeped in the folklore and fancy of the Irish people.  Two of these stories are in the very least, imaginative, and at the most, ingenious material for a romance or fantasy fiction novel.  Whichever Claddagh ring story you believe, either story will inspire your imagination and provide you with a glimpse of the depth and passion of the Irish people.

     The first Claddagh ring story begins with a beautiful woman.  Margaret Joyce lived in Galway in the sixteenth century.  One day while doing the family laundry on the bank of a nearby river, she met a wealthy Spanish merchant, who fell in love with her the moment he saw her . They soon married and moved away to Spain.  Margaret Joyce was now Margaret de Rona, the wife of Domingo de Rona.  He left Margaret a widow soon after their marriage.  Apparently he was much older than she and succumbed to the strain of travel and a new marriage.  Margaret was now very wealthy and very homesick.  She soon returned home to Ireland and in 1596 remarried to Oliver Og French, the mayor of Galway. 

     Her husband, however, was evidently not the domestic type, leaving on a long voyage soon after their marriage.  Margaret, being of an altruistic nature and perhaps searching for meaning and significance in her life, found a way to contribute to her community and glean satisfaction from tangible results.  She began to build bridges all over the province of Connaught with her own money.  Her husband’s constituents most certainly appreciated this gesture and it most likely provided Margaret with a great deal of satisfaction to help her fellow man and leave a legacy of sorts.

     The fantastical part of the Claddagh ring story begins here as one day Margaret is on the work site of one of her bridges overseeing the project.  She is sitting down when a large eagle drops in her lap a prototype of a Claddagh Ring.  Legend has it that this ring was a gift from God for her love and selflessness toward others.  This Claddagh ring, said to be adorned with a brilliant stone, was preserved by Margaret’s descendants in the year 1661.

The Second Claddagh Ring Story

     The second Claddagh ring story is that of Richard Joyce, a native of Galway Ireland and master goldsmith.  This story is characterized by love, loyalty and the creativity inspired by both.

In 1675 Richard Joyce was sailing to the West Indies when his ship was raided by Algerian pirates.  In addition to various and asundry valuables taken from the ship, some passengers were also taken and enslaved.  Richard Joyce was purchased by an affluent Turkish goldsmith and became quite a craftsman himself during his almost fifteen years in captivity.  In 1689 William III negotiated the release of all British subjects detained (enslaved) in Algiers.  Richard’s captor attempted to entice him to stay by offering him his daughter in marriage and half of his property.  Richard was most likely intensely homesick and the offer was declined.  He returned to Galway, married and became one of Ireland’s most famous goldsmiths.  The oldest known Claddagh ring in existence bears the initials and jewelers mark of Richard Joyce.  Whichever Claddagh ring story you believe, there is no denying the allure of this cherished Irish ring.