The Claddagh ring (Irish: fáinne Chladaigh) is a traditional Irish ring given which represents love, loyalty, and friendship (the hands represent friendship, the heart represents love, and the crown represents loyalty).
The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, located just outside the old city walls of Galway, now part of Galway City. The ring, as currently known, was first produced in the 17th century.
The Claddagh ring belongs to a group of European finger rings called “fede rings”.The name “fede” derives from the Italian phrase mani in fede (“hands [joined] in faith” or “hands [joined] in loyalty”). These rings date from Roman times, when the gesture of clasped hands was a symbol of pledging vows, and they were used as engagement/wedding rings in medieval and Renaissance Europe.
Fede rings are cast in the form of two clasped hands, symbolising faith, trust, or “plighted troth”. The Claddagh ring is a variation on the fede ring, while the hands, heart, and crown motif was used in England in the early 18th century.
Towards the end of the 20th century there was an explosion of interest in the Claddagh Ring, both as jewellery and as an icon of Irishness that now adorns many other objects from pub signs to grave stones. In more recent years it has been embellished with interlace designs and combined with other Celtic and Irish symbols, but this is a very recent phenomenon that corresponds with the worldwide expansion in popularity of the Claddagh ring as an emblem of Irish identity