Richard Joyce & the Claddagh Ring

The Claddagh Ring is an Irish ring which depicts two hands holding a heart, surmounted by a crown. According to tradition, the hands represent ‘friendship’, the heart represents ‘love’, and the crown represents ‘loyalty’.

The motif of hands clasped together, generally referred to as a fede (from the Italian ‘mani in fede’ meaning ‘hands in faith’), has been in use on love rings since the Roman period.

The Claddagh Ring has been produced in Galway since the early 1700s, but only became known as the ‘Claddagh Ring’ from the 1840s onwards.  

The way in which the ring is worn relates to its owner’s relationship status. If its owner wears the ring with the crown pointing towards the finger nail, he or she is said to be in love or married. To wear it with heart pointing to the finger nail, he or she is said to be unattached.

Here our animators – Katie, Phoebe & Rebekah – tell the amazing tale of Richard Joyce of Galway, the man credited with ‘inventing’ the famous Claddagh Ring.

According to folklore, Joyce was aboard a ship bound for the Caribbean that was taken by North African pirates. Joyce found himself slave to a Turkish silversmith, and from his master he learned and excelled at the craft.

Released from slavery in 1689, at the demand of William III of England (a.k.a. King Billy or William of Orange), Joyce returned to this hometown and set up as a silversmith. Examples of his work, marked with an anchor signifying ‘hope’ and the initials R.I., can be seen in Galway City Musuem.


  • DELAMER, Ida (1996) “The Claddagh Ring”. Irish Arts Review Yearbook, Vol. 12, pp. 181-87.
  • MacMAHON, Seán (2005) The Story of the Claddagh Ring. Cork: Mercier Press.
  • McCOURT, Malachy (2004) Claddagh Ring. Running Press.
  • QUINN, Fr. George (1970) “The Claddagh Ring”. The Mantle, No. 13, pp. 9-13.
An engraving of a Claddagh Ring, 1843.
HALL, Mr & Mrs Samuel Carter (1843) Ireland: Its Scenery, Character, &c. Vol. III.

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