The story of the Claddagh Ring began about five centuries ago in the fishing village of Claddagh, just outside the city of Galway. Almost every man in the village was a fisherman, and they would go to sea everyday to fish for food for their families and to sell to other villagers. The sea could be dangerous, high and strong, but the most feared danger on the sea were pirates.
One day a young man was fishing with other members of his family when they spotted a Spanish pirate ship. With nowhere to hide, their fates were sealed. The men were captured and brought to the North Coast of Africa, where they were sold into slavery.
Richard, the youngest of those captured, was the most distraught. Each of the men had left loved ones behind, but Richard had just met his true love and now feared that he would not live to see her again. Years went by and many of the men died. Others accepted their fate, believing they would never return home. Richard worked as a slave, but longed to return to his village and to his beloved. To keep his spirits up and hope alive, Richard stole a tiny specks of gold from his slave masters in the goldsmith shop where he tended the fires everyday. Years passed and with his tiny pieces of gold, he was finally able to fashion a ring. It was his hope that, despite what seemed nearly impossible, he would return to his village and present the ring to his true love. No one really knows if Richard escaped or earned his release from slavery, but in either event, the day finally came when Richard could begin the long trip back to his village in Ireland . . . to his home.
At his journey's end, Richard was overcome with joy when he learned that his beloved had remained true to him in his long absence, waiting faithfully for him to return. It was on that day that Richard gave his love the ring he created that is now known worldwide as the Claddagh Ring. The Claddagh design appears not only in rings, but in other types of jewelry as well. The heart in the Claddagh symbolizes the love Richard longed to share with his true love. The crown symbolizes his undying loyalty and the hands symbolize friendship, which is, after all, the very foundation of love, with loyalty holding the two hands together.
If the ring is worn on the right hand with the heart pointing out, it means that the wearer's heart is uncommitted. Worn on the same hand with the heart pointing inward, the Claddagh ring means that the wearer's heart is taken. Worn on the left hand with the heart pointing inward, it means "Let Love and Friendship reign forever, never to be separated."