Friday, March 14

history of the claddagh ring and a st. patrick's day manicure

A Galway jewelry store advertising Claddagh rings

I've mentioned before that I took a January term course abroad in Ireland when I was a third-year student at UVa.  My two weeks in Ireland always comes to mind in March when St. Patrick's Day preparations are in the air.  We spent the first week of the term in Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, and the second week in Dublin.  When I was trying to come up with something uniquely Irish to post today, I went back through my trip photos and remembered my introduction to one of the most well-known Irish symbols: the Claddagh ring.

Galway Cathedral, where I attended my first Catholic mass

Our week in Galway was spent studying writers from western Ireland and exploring the countryside and the city.  One of our professors mentioned that the neighborhood across the River Corrib, home to Galway's fishermen, was called the Claddagh, and I remembered seeing Claddagh rings in movies and on television (remember the ring Angel gave Buffy?).  That little fishing village is where the ring's design originated in the 17th century (1).  

Galway fishing boats

I knew that a Claddagh ring would be the perfect piece to take home to commemorate my newfound love for western Ireland.  My friends and I found a small jewelry store, where we learned that most Irish people prefer delicate jewelry to the bold styles they consider American (like our class rings).  We also learned that the Claddagh ring design is full of symbolism:  the hands represent friendship and trust, the heart in the center represents love, and the crown represents loyalty.  Claddagh rings are most commonly used as engagement and wedding rings in Galway and other parts of Ireland, but can also be used as friendship or pre-engagement rings, and often become family heirlooms.  Our jeweler also taught us another symbolic use of the Claddagh ring:  if the ring is worn with the point of the heart facing the wearer, it indicates that the wearer is in search of true love.  If the ring is worn with the point facing away from the wearer, it signifies that the wearer has found love. I usually forget this piece of mythology and just wear it however I think it looks prettiest.

Like most of my everyday jewelry, I chose a simple design for my Claddagh ring.  It doesn't fit quite as well now as it did in college, but I love to wear it around St. Patrick's Day or any time I'm missing Ireland.

I also wanted to share a fun idea I came up with for a St. Patrick's Day manicure.  I'm really into pastels right now, so I went green with "Gargantuan Green Grape" by OPI - it took three coats to be totally opaque, but the formula is nice and even.  I love a good accent nail, so I topped the ring finger with one coat of "All Sparkly and Gold" from the Mariah Carey collection for OPI.  

(1) "Claddagh ring."  Accessed March 9, 2014.

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  1. I'm pretty sure my first interaction with Claddagh rings was from Buffy! I never actually had one though, but I'm pretty sure my mom did.

    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who got cultural references from Buffy :) I wanted one pretty much the minute Angel gave Buffy hers.