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Buying a Claddagh Ring in Galway

When we decided to bring our oldest son with us to Ireland, we asked him what he wanted to do most. “I want to drink an Irishman under the table,” came the answer.

“You're on your own with that one,” Dan retorted with a smile. “What else?”

“I want to buy a Claddagh ring in Galway,” Jimmy said, “and I also want to meet our family.”
Claddagh ring title

When Dan's great-grandmother emigrated to the U.S. a century ago, she left many relatives behind in Clifden, County Galway. The largest town in the Connemara region, Clifden has been called one of the most beautiful, unspoiled places in Ireland.

Dan's mother and grandmother had met the Clifden clan a few years ago and promised we would be welcomed with open arms. So we planned our itinerary to include a few days at the end to meet the Irish cousins and to explore the surrounding region.

Buying a Claddagh ring in Galway

The Claddagh ring originates from a fishing village near the shore (claddagh) of Galway city. It shows two hands holding a heart that wears a crown and is traditionally given as a token of friendship or love. Its popularity took off in the 1800s when Queen Victoria began wearing it, as later did Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII.

Read the full story here.

Thomas Dillon Jewellers, Galway, is home of the original Claddagh ring.

 

The royal rings were made and supplied by Dillon of Galway (now known as Thomas Dillon’s). Dillon's is the oldest jeweler in Ireland and holds the Royal Patent. The company has been making the ring since 1750. They are, they say, “the only Jewellers that have the right to have “ORIGINAL” stamped on our claddagh rings.”

Actually, the shop is more than a jewelry store; it also contains a free museum. Besides cases of gold and silver rings, the museum also has historical memorabilia, a display with some of the oldest (and most unique!) Claddagh rings in existence and a collection of photos from the owner's private collection of Old Galway. The Dillon's website proudly states, “it has been described as ‘the smallest museum in Europe with the biggest gift shop'.”

Ladies' claddagh ring, heart, hands and crown

For many, the Claddagh also symbolizes pride in one’s Irish heritage, which Jimmy had in spades. Of course we had to visit the original manufacturer to get his ring! Dan had never heard of a Claddagh ring, but once he understood its significance, he offered to buy me one as well. The ring pretty much sums up our marriage relationship: two hands (friendship) clasping a heart (love) and surmounted by a crown (loyalty).

Traditionally, people wear it with the crown pointing toward the fingertip to indicate they are in love or married. On the other hand, the heart points to the fingernail when the wearer is unattached.

To me, a Claddagh ring is the perfect souvenir of Ireland. Whenever I wear it, I think of Jimmy and the wonderful time we spent together.

Walking around Galway

Rather than head out of town directly after making our purchases, we spent an hour or so looking around Galway city center. With the exception of a few delivery vehicles, much of it is a pedestrian area now. We enjoyed meandering about the cobbled streets, admiring the colorful buildings, and overhearing the Irish lilt of passersby in the mundane atmosphere of locals going about their day-to-day business.
Galway's pedestrian areaApart from getting my beautiful silver Claddagh souvenir, I have two other favorite memories of Galway. I enjoyed the colorful flower and vegetable stalls in the makeshift markets along the road … and our pub stop. We might have stayed longer, but we were eager to get to our next destination.

Pedestrian flower market in Galway

A farmer's market in the town of Galway, Ireland.

Inspired?

If you're in Ireland, think about buying a Claddagh ring in Galway and walking around the city, if only for a day.

Written by Linda

I’m a happily married mom with an insatiable love for food, travel and languages. I hope our photos and stories will encourage you to travel, or at least offer a brief escape to another land. Let me know what you’d enjoy reading more about, and please consider subscribing to our newsletter.

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13 thoughts on “Buying a Claddagh Ring in Galway

    1. He most certainly did, Corinne … he met an Irishman one evening at a bar in Dublin and they bonded over having served in their respective armies. Long story short, Jimmy outdrank him and managed to get invited back to the Irish army base to see their barracks. He was especially proud of that accomplishment. 🙂

  1. What an interesting conception for a ring: symbolizing love, friendship, loyalty and pride. And wearing it in different ways may mean very different things. I’m sure it brings back so many sweet memories about your son. Very beautiful!

    1. It does, Anda. We miss him very much and I feel truly blessed to have those memories. I know how much the ring’s symbolism meant to him. It was far more precious than any diamond could ever be.

  2. Love the photos of Galway! My family comes from southeastern Ireland, and the Claddagh tradition was explained a little differently: A ring worn on the right hand indicates you’re “on the market” until you’ve been engaged. Then, your Claddagh moves to the left hand, with the pointy end of the heart towards your fingertip; your heart is ready to be filled. During the wedding, the ring is reversed so the ring’s heart points to your own, and so the love does not run out. Unfortunately, my Claddagh is at the bottom of the sea in Mexico – a sure sign that it’s time for a trip to Dillons! 🙂 #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. That sounds like a good enough reason to visit Ireland, Rob … but I believe they offer mail order. 🙂

      I do like your explanation as well. That’s interesting about moving it from one hand to the other at your wedding. Good thing that in both explanations the heart points the same way for married people. It wouldn’t be a pretty sight if someone got the wrong message!

  3. I really like the significance behind this symbol. When I was 13, I bought Claddagh earring (from an Avon catalog). Because of your story, I am trying to think what actually happened to those earrings (I think I left them in Puerto Rico when I moved to California). I will like to acquire a ring since I am aware of the significance now.

  4. My best friend in college was Irish and she talked about this ring. I have totally forgotten about it until now. Thank you for the walk down memory lane although that was not your intention.

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