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Claddagh Rings: Blending Love and Loyalty


A claddagh ring is one of the most romantic symbols that lovers can exchange. Just ask any fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

Don't know "Buffy?" Long before Bella and Edward of "Twilight," there were Buffy, the once-in-a-generation Vampire Slayer, and the soulful Angel, a handsome, dark and brooding vampire (is there any other kind?). In true Romeo-and-Juliet tradition, Buffy and Angel fell in love.

And that's where the beautiful claddagh ring comes in. At the height of their star-crossed passion, as they're about to be separated, Angel gives Buffy a silver claddagh ring, just like the one he wears. Angel explains the unique design: The hands mean friendship, the crown means loyalty, and the heart means love. Wear it with the heart pointing toward you, says the dark and handsome vampire to our young and beautiful heroine, and it means you're taken.

What girl wouldn't want that kind of legendary romance on her finger?

Claddagh rings appeal so much because of their history. Some say an eagle dropped the ring into the lap of Margaret Joyce, wife of a mayor of Galway, Ireland, because she gave the money from her first marriage to charity. Another tale says a handsome prince, who fell in love with a fair maiden of the village, designed the claddagh to convince his love's father that he was sincere.

One legend closer to truth is that of Richard Joyce, from the Claddagh neighborhood of Galway. Richard was captured at sea and sold as a slave to a goldsmith in Algiers. When the English king made peace with the North African Muslims known as Moors, he demanded all slaves be released. Richard Joyce had gotten so good at his trade that the goldsmith offered his daughter and half his wealth if Richard would stay in Algeria.

Alas for the Moorish jeweler and his daughter! Richard had a true love back in Ireland, and he went back to Galway, where he created the now-familiar design of the claddagh as a wedding ring for his bride.

These days friends and lovers with or without a bit o' the Irish in them exchange claddagh rings. Worn on the right hand, with the heart pointing inward, claddagh shows that someone has "captured" your heart. Worn on the left hand, with the heart pointing outward, a claddagh ring means that you're engaged.

And if you wear a claddagh ring on your left hand with the heart pointing inward, you're married, you lucky couple! As the saying goes: "With my hands I give you my heart, and crown it with my love."

Claddagh rings today boast some dazzling new designs. The heart can be filled with tiny diamonds or emeralds as green as Irish hills. It can be made in sterling silver, yellow gold or white gold. Claddagh symbols even have found their way into men's signet rings, bangles and brooches.

For true romance, though, claddagh rings remain at the heart of it all.

True vampire fans can read a complete vampires history