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Which Way Should I Wear My Claddagh Ring?

Written by Anna Currell
September 1, 2022

Thinking of buying a Claddagh ring for your beloved? Not sure how to wear one you've been given? We investigated this ring's rich history to help you brush up on its history and traditions, even if you decide to go your own way with it at the end of the day. If you're wondering how to wear a Claddagh ring the right way, the answer might surprise you!

What Is a Claddagh Ring?

A Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring that dates back to the 17th century. It typically features a heart gently held between two hands and wearing a crown. Most Claddagh rings are made of metal, typically silver or gold, but there are also more ornate versions with gemstones inlaid in the heart or intricately engraved band patterns. While the key features of any Claddagh ring remain consistent, they can vary in their size, color, finish, and age, and many are passed down through generations as family heirlooms. 

Most jewelry we wear, whether we know it or not, carries a backstory. Even if our specific pieces aren't heirlooms, the styles that inspired them are often historical in some way. That’s certainly true for Claddagh rings, which originated in Galway, Ireland. There are many versions of the Claddagh ring origin story, but it’s commonly believed that Richard Joyce, a goldsmith from Galway, created the very first one. As legend has it, Joyce was captured by Algerian pirates, enslaved, and forced to part with his bride-to-be. While he was enslaved, Joyce further developed his goldsmithing skills and he crafted the first Claddagh ring for the woman he loved and missed. Years later, when he was finally free, he returned home to Galway and gave her the ring he had made especially for her. The tale has a happy ending, of course, and the pair were finally married.

Gold Claddagh ring

The Claddagh Ring Meaning and Symbolism

Each element of the Claddagh ring symbolizes a different value: the heart represents love, the hands stand for friendship, and the crown signifies loyalty. Claddagh rings became popular in Galway, where they originated, but the trend soon spread all throughout Ireland. After the period of famine that devastated the region and forced many Irish families to leave their homes, the tradition of the Claddagh Ring became a global sensation. Irish migrants brought their cherished rings to new countries, and as they settled they passed their heirlooms down through the generations. 

While plenty of people who wear Claddagh rings today have Irish heritage, you don’t have to be Irish in order to wear a Claddagh ring. For many, the symbolism of the ring is enough to stir the soul and awaken the spirit of relationship bliss.

How to Wear a Claddagh Ring

Traditionally speaking, the right way to wear a Claddagh ring is based on your relationship status. Like wedding bands and engagement rings, Claddagh rings signify relationships and express the promise of love. 

There are four primary ways to signify your relationship status with a Claddagh ring:

  • Right hand, heart facing outwards: Single 

This orientation signifies that the wearer is single and open to love; the heart is open to the world. The bottom of the heart points toward the tip of the finger and the crown is closest to the wrist. 

  • Right hand, heart facing inwards: In a relationship

This orientation signifies that the wearer is in a relationship or “taken;” the heart is protected. The bottom of the heart points toward the wrist and the crown is closest to the tip of the finger. 

  • Left hand, heart facing outwards: Engaged

This orientation signifies that the wearer is engaged to be married. The bottom of the heart points toward the tip of the finger and the crown is closest to the wrist.

  • Left hand, heart facing inwards: Married

This orientation signifies that the wearer is married. The tip of the heart points toward the wrist (or the wearer’s heart) and the crown is closest to the tip of the ring finger. 

While these are the typical ways to signify romantic relationships, Claddagh rings are often gifted as signs of friendship and platonic love as well. Some of the status symbolism fades away when Claddagh rings are given and worn platonically, but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful.

How to Take Care of Your Claddagh Ring

If your Claddagh ring has been passed down in your family, as many are, it could be decades old. Since we’re constantly using our hands, the rings we wear everyday are particularly vulnerable to dings, dents, and damage. There are plenty of ways to prevent ring damage, but make sure to stay on the lookout for any signs that your ring is in need of some TLC. The best way to care for your most prized jewelry is to get it cleaned regularly. We recommend having your ring professionally cleaned every six months. Whether your Claddagh ring is in need of a touch-up or could do with a polish, mail it in to be repaired by the experts.

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