The Claddagh Ring
The Claddagh Ring – According to the most ancient legend about its creation, the Claddagh Ring dates back to the times of the Celtic Gods, when the sun god Dagda fell in love with Anu – or Danu – the goddess of the whole firmament, and ancestor of the Celts. From their love was born Beathauile, that is the whole of humanity, life itself. For this love was created the Claddagh Ring, where the right hand represents Dagda, the left Anu and the heart is the life born from their union. This because the historical origins of the Claddagh are lost in time, and have no precise dating.
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The ring appears for the first time in the village of Claddagh, near Galway Bay, about 400 years ago thanks to the skill of Richard Joyce – or Ioyce. Also in this case, however, the story is full of mystery and legend takes over. The story goes that the young Joyce, a resident of Galway, was traveling to the West Indies, when his ship was attacked by Moorish pirates and all the people on board taken captive and sold as slaves.
Joyce was sold to a jeweler, who taught him his art. In a short time Joyce surpassed his master, and when William III, King of England obtained the release of all prisoners, the jeweler did not want to let him go. He offered him the hand of his only daughter and half of his possessions in exchange for the promise that Richard Joyce would have kept working with him. The Irish refused and returned home, where his beloved one was waiting for him; during his imprisonment he had made for her the first Claddagh Ring in gold, the symbol of love that survives even the distance.
Joyce, after marrying, put to good use the skills learned by the Moorish jeweler, and opened his own goldsmith shop in Galway, where he began to produce lovers’ rings in gold, silver and bronze. Today many of the pieces he made – true masterpieces -, engraved with his initials RI, are preserved in the “National Museum of Ireland” in Dublin and at the “Victoria and Albert Museum” in London.
Symbol of love, friendship and loyalty – respectively the heart, hands and crown – the Claddagh Ring became the dowry of the brides, a gift that mothers passed to their daughters on the day of their marriage. Over time, the meaning of these rings became more and more important and deep, to represent eventually the only bond with family and homeland during the great famine that struck Ireland and forced most people to emigrate.
Furthermore, it must be noted that the Claddagh Ring was the only Irish ring worn by Queen Victoria and Henry VII, and that in 1956 a couple of Connemara marble Claddagh Ring was created as a wedding gift to Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco.
From simple token of love of a young goldsmith to traditional symbol of love and friendship, affection and loyalty, the Claddagh Ring is still nowadays one of the symbols of Irish culture.
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