Gold Claddagh Ring c.1784.
© The Trustees of the British Museum.
Named after a small fishing village in Ireland, the Claddagh ring has a central heart surmounted by a coronet, grasped on either side by hands. The presence of a coronet or crown can signify rank or declare the sovereignty of love over the heart. Popular during Georgian times, they remain so today and Irish tradition holds that the ring can be given in friendship or as a token of love. If worn on the right-hand ring finger with the heart pointing to the fingertip, the wearer is “available,” turned the other way the wearer is “involved.” Worn on the left hand ring finger the claddagh signifies engagement or marriage.