The history of the modern claddagh is uncertain, though it is usually assumed to be connected with the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, just outside Galway city. The village no longer exists as a distinct entity, the area it once occupied having been absorbed by the expanding city.
Legend has it that in 1675 a young Irish man, Richard Joyce, left his town to work in the West Indies, intending to marry his love when he returned. However his ship was captured and he was sold as a slave to a man in Tangiers, said to be a goldsmith, who made him his apprentice. Later, in Algiers, with his new master, he was trained in his craft.
In 1689 William III became King of England and enforced a request upon the Algerians to release all of his subjects enslaved in the country. As a result, Richard Joyce was set free. The goldsmith had such a great amount of respect for Richard Joyce that he offered Joyce his daughter and half his wealth if Joyce stayed, but he denied. During his time of enslavement he forged a ring as a symbol of his love to his beloved back home, and when he returned to Galway, he presented her with an exquisite Claddagh ring as an expression of his love for her. Since then the ring has become a symbol of enduring commitment.
Art by Alberto Giacomuzzi