The Claddagh ring (Irish: fáinne Chladaigh) is a traditional Irish ring given as a token of friendship, love, or marriage. The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, located just outside the city of Galway. The ring was first produced in the 17th century, though elements of the design date to the late Roman period.
The Claddagh's distinctive design features two hands clasping a heart, and usually surmounted by a crown. The elements of this symbol are often said to correspond to the qualities of love (the heart), friendship (the hands), and loyalty (the crown). A "Fenian" Claddagh ring, without a crown, was later designed in Dublin. Claddagh rings, with or without the crown (most commonly with a crown), have come to denote pride in Irish heritage, while continuing to be symbols of love or marriage.
Claddagh rings are commonly used as friendship rings, but are most commonly used as engagement/wedding rings. In Ireland, America and other places, the Claddagh is handed down mother-to-daughter or grandmother-to-granddaughter. The way that a Claddagh ring is worn on the hand is usually intended to convey the wearer's relationship status:
On the right hand with the point of the heart towards the fingertips, the wearer is single and may be looking for love. (This is most commonly the case when a young woman has first received the ring from a relative, unless she is already engaged).
On the right hand with the point of the heart towards the wrist, the wearer is in a relationship, or their heart has been "captured".
On the left hand with the point of the heart towards the fingertips, the wearer is engaged.
On the left hand with the point of the heart towards the wrist, the wearer is married.
There are other localised variations in the traditions involving the hand and the finger upon which the Claddagh is worn. Folklore about the ring is relatively recent, not ancient, with "very little native Irish writing about the ring".