The Irish Claddagh

by Alexander Baran
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The Irish claddagh, or "clasped hands and heart" is a powerful symbol that dates back centuries, featured originally only in rings, and now available in a vast variety of jewelry items. The claddagh dates back to 1600's Ireland, and is traditionally represented as a pair of hands clasping a heart that's topped with a crown. The heart in this design represents love, the pair of hands friendship, and the crown atop signifies devotion. The true history of this remarkable design is sadly lost to time, however there are several popularized tales that lay claim to the claddagh's beginnings.

In many of these folkloric yarns, the first claddagh ring is seen as a divine gift, dropped into the hands of a hard working woman by an eagle from the heavens, or appearing mysteriously in the possession of a man who righteously resists temptation. No matter its origins, humble or divine, one thing remains clear throughout every version of the symbol's history: the significance of the values that is represents will remain across the ages, as true today as in centuries past.

Although items bearing the claddagh are most often given as a romantic gift, jewelry with this design is also worn as a nod to Irish heritage, an emblem of friendship, or just for its beauty. Following tradition, this item is worn on the left side for a person romantically attached, with points of the crown facing away from the body before marriage or engagement, and towards the body after. Worn on the right side of the body, this can symbolize friendship or openness when facing out, and disinterest in relationships if turned around. In addition, the style of the design is also known to have significance, sometimes including gemstones, color variations, or other design elements such as keys, circles, or extra hearts.

Popular, versatile, and ever evolving, the claddagh is a must in every jewelry collection. Whether a ring or pendant, or a piece of body jewelry, this beautiful emblem is imbued not only with the luck of the Irish, but with the richness of their history and the power of their values.

by Alexander Baran

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