History Lessons

I used to love rings. I couldn’t get enough of them. When my mom took me to the mall when I was young, I loved going into the Friendship Station, which was Solano Mall’s equivalent to a Hello Kitty store and I used to always eyeball the rings by the register because those were the adjustable birthstone rings and those were my favorites. I liked the meaning behind them, having a pretty-colored stone as a symbol of your birth month. What can I say, I was probably 6 and I thought they were neat.

As I got older, I grew out of my adjustable ring phase and somewhere along the way, began wearing an Irish Claddaugh ring.

The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring, sometimes worn as a wedding ring or to symbolize friendship. It has two hands, holding a heart and a crown atop the heart. Each element symbolizes something different: the heart represents love; the hands, friendship; the crown, loyalty. “With my hands, I give you my heart, and crown it with my love.” I think that is one of the best quotes ever.

“With my hands, I give you my heart, and crown it with my love.”

The hand on which the ring is worn, as well as which way it faces, usually symbolizes the wearer’s romantic availability (or lack thereof). Worn on the right hand, with the heart facing outwards, usually means that the wearer is available. Turned with the heart facing in usually symbolizes that someone has “captured the wearer’s heart.” Worn on the left hand applies to those engaged (facing out) and those married (facing in).

I also always liked to learn about the legends of the origin of the ring.

There’s one story about an Irishwoman who married a Spanish merchant and went to Spain with him, but he died and left her a boatload of money. When she returned to Ireland and remarried, she built the bridges of Connacht with her inheritance, out of the goodness of her heart. As a reward, an eagle dropped the Claddaugh ring in her lap, for her generosity.

There is a story of a prince who fell in love with a common maid. In order to convince the maid’s father that he was serious about the man’s daughter, he designed a ring with hands representing friendship, a crown representing loyalty, and a heart representing love. He proposed to the maid with this ring, and after the father heard the explanation of the symbolism of the ring, he gave his blessing.

I have heard others but I’ll stop there because the prince story is my favorite.

I wore my ring every day for years, to the point where I had a tanline on my right ring finger. I came across the ring tonight, as I was unpacking more things.

I put it back on my right ring finger tonight and even though it looks funny upside down on my finger, just wearing my spoon ring on my left hand seemed imbalanced. Especially because the spoon ring doesn’t have any meaning to me. And clearly the Claddaugh ring does.

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