When it comes to the heart, there is nothing that sends the ticker a flurry quicker than "I love you", "Will you marry me?" and "I do". Many of us wait years to hear such words depart the lips of our significant others and when we do finally hear them, it's as though we have been elevated to a whole new level.
For some, the aforementioned means a diamond ring, but an old Irish tradition calls for a little something different. The Claddagh ring is the symbol of true love and devotion. The two-hand design, clutching a heart, topped with a crown has long been the standard for representing a young woman's marital status.
With the hands being symbolic of friendship, the heart of love and the crown representative of loyalty, the Claddagh is a token of undying love to be passed down from mother to daughter or must be gifted to a woman of age. Once received, the woman will wear the Irish "promise ring" on her right hand with the heart pointing outward to signify her open heart, as she is not romantically involved with anyone. When the wearer becomes involved with a suitor, the ring remains on the right hand but with the heart facing inward, indicative of someone capturing their heart.
When the young woman has found a man of her desire and they are promised to one another, the ring is then moved to the left hand with the heart facing outward once more, though this time it is to announce that she is seriously involved with her significant other. During the wedding ceremony is when the Claddagh is finally turned around one last time with the heart facing inward to declare to the world the couple's statement of undying love for one another.
There are many tales, passed down through the generations, of just how this Irish symbol of everlasting love came into being, but the one that seems most likely is of Richard Joyce of Galway. When Joyce left his hometown to pursue work in the West Indies, he promised to marry his lover upon his return. While navigating the waters towards the destination, the ship was captured and Joyce was then sold as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith, from whom he learned his respective trade. Eventually Joyce was set free and he returned to Galway with a ring in hand intended for his love back home, the ring we now know as the Claddagh.
Whatever the true story may be behind this still widely used ring, one thing is for certain, whomever is the recipient definitely has the luck of the Irish on her side.
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