Celtic wedding rings or Irish Claddagh rings are becoming an increasingly popular choice among couples today, but this style of ring has probably more significance and history attached to it than any other design. The style of the Celtic wedding ring closely resembles a type of ring dating back to Roman times which were called ‘fede’ rings, from the Italian phrase ‘mani in fede’ which means hands joined in faith or loyalty. These rings were used as love and wedding rings during Renaissance and Medieval Europe with the symbol of the clasped hands depicting the pledging of vows.
The Irish version, the Claddagh is more than three hundred years old and was named after a small fishing village. The word itself means ‘a flat stony shore‘ and there are two stories relating to the origin of the ring. The first tells of an Irish woman named Margaret Joyce who inherited a fortune from her late Spanish husband Domingo de Rona who had been a merchant trading with Galway. Subsequently, she married the Mayor of Galway, Oliver Og French in 1556 and put her fortune to practical use by constructing bridges in Connacht. As a reward an eagle is supposed to have dropped the first Claddagh ring into her lap.
The other story tells of a man coincidentally with the same surname, Richard Joyce. He was also from Galway and was captured by Algerians, sold as a slave and became the property of a Moorish goldsmith. In 1689 King William III of England secured the release of all British nationals and Joyce was released. He was evidently well thought of, because the Moor offered Joyce his daughter’s hand in marriage and a substantial part of his wealth if he would stay in Algiers. It is told that Joyce refused and returned to Galway with the first Irish wedding ring, the Claddagh.
Other styles of Celtic wedding rings are influenced by symbols such as the Celtic trinity knot, this depicts the Christian faith by meaning the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These designs had been included by the church from the earlier Celtic religions. There are also woven knots which are intertwined, depicting eternity, which is particularly suitable for a wedding ring.
Modern Celtic wedding rings can be made of several different precious metals such as yellow gold, white gold, rose gold, titanium, platinum and silver. It is an attractive option to combine two different color metals in the design of the ring, for instance the outer bands in yellow gold and the inner twisted design contrasted in white gold.
There are two popular choices for Celtic knot rings, open weave and closed weave. The difference is that the open weave center has no backing to the ring, but the closed weave has the knot design set onto a solid band. There will be several different styles within these choices. Before buying your rings it is a good idea to find out the pros and cons of each precious metal, this way you can be sure of making an informed choice.
All images from Celtic Wedding Rings
Ms Gingham says: I have real envy for the Diamond Knot Wedding Ring. Absolutely gorgeous. Thanks to Catherine for this interesting article on the history of this stunning jewellery.
Catherine says: “I have worked with Celtic Rings Ltd for over 6 years contributing articles on jewellery and Celtic history.”
Want more? Check out these posts from the archives: