Heart - love
Hands - friendship and faith
Crown - loyalty and fidelity
There are different stories about the origin of the Claddaugh ring.
One is of Richard Joyce, who departed Claddaugh (a small fishing village near Galway city) on a ship bound for the plantations in the West Indies. He was due to be married on his return but Algerian pirates captured his ship and the entire crew were sold as slaves. He was sold to a Moorish goldsmith and soon he became a master of the craft. Years later, in 1689, he was released after William III came to the throne and negotiated an agreement for all prisoners of the Moors to be released. The goldsmith begged Richard Joyce to stay offering him half his wealth and his daughters hand in marriage. But Joyce returned to Claddaugh to find that his true love had never married. He gave her the Claddaugh ring as a sign of his love. They married and he set up a goldsmith shop in Claddaugh. Some of the earliest Claddaugh rings traced do bear the mark RJ (Richard Joyce).
In the nineteenth century the ring spread out from Ireland helped by the exodus of people during the great famine. Today the ring and other jewellery bearing the symbol of Claddaugh are worn extensively across Ireland. These pieces symbolise commitment, true love and friendship. They are often given as a gift between friends and lovers.