Though it’s nicknamed the Emerald Isle, Ireland’s real jewelry claim to fame is the Claddagh ring, usually fashioned of simple silver or gold.
The Claddagh is a lovely little cypher featuring two hands for friendship, a heart for love and a crown for loyalty. Legend tells us that the Claddagh ring was invented in the seventeenth century by a lovesick Irishman taken from his homeland.
Robert Joyce was a fisherman from Claddagh, a small village that was located near modern Galway. On one of his fishing trips he was kidnapped by pirates and sold as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith. Poor Robert had left a girl back home in Galway, and created the Claddagh ring as a symbol of his love for her. But the legend has a happy ending! In 1689 William III negotiated the release of all his citizens that were being held as slaves, and Robert was able to return to Ireland where his faithful gal was waiting. The two wed, and Robert opened his own successful goldsmith shop in Galway. His ring design became a hit, and has been exchanged between friends and lovers ever since.