The Claddagh Ring is believed to have originated in the fishing village situated near the "shore" or "Claddagh" of Galway Bay.

The Claddagh outside the City Walls, and further separated by the River Corrib, was exclusive community or fisher-folk forbidden to use spade or hoe and ruled by a periodically-elected "King" whose sole distinguishing mark was his right to use a white sail on his fishing hooker.

The ring shows two hands holding a heart which wears a crown. This motif is explained in the phrase: "Let Love and Friendship reign", and ideal poesy for a wedding ring used by a small community for over four hundred years.

This distinctive design is associated with one of the Tribes of Galway, the Joyce family. Margaret Joyce married Domingo de Rona, a wealthy Spaniard, who, when he died, left her his fortune, which she subsequently used to build bridges in the Province of Connacht.

Margaret, who later married Oliver of French, Mayor of Galway 1596, was providentially rewarded for her good works and charity by an eagle which dropped a gold ring into her lap. This fanciful legend had a more factual opponent in the story of Richard Joyce, or Joyce’s.

Richard en route to the West Indies, was captured by Algerian corsairs and sold as a slave to a Moorish goldsmith who trained him.

Released from slavery in 1689, at the demand of William III of England, Joyce, in spite of substantial inducement to stay, returned to Galway and set up as a goldsmith. His work marked with an anchor signifying Hope and initials R.I. still exists. The Claddagh Ring motif is attributed to him.

The Claddagh Ring became popular outside the Claddagh about the middle of the last century, especially as it was the only ring made in Ireland worn by Queen Victoria and later by Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII. These rings were made and supplied by Dillon of Galway to whom the Royal Patent was granted. This tradition has been carried on to this day.

On the occasion of the visit of Our Lady's Choral Society to Monaco in 1962, a brooch and cuff-links in 18 carat gold, embodying the Claddagh motif, and set with Connemara marble, were presented to Their Serene Highnesses, Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco.

Many firms make different versions of the Claddagh Ring. Dillon of Galway is the only firm still in existence since 1750 making the Original Ring at 1, William Street, Galway. They are the original makers of the Claddagh ring and are also the oldest jewelers in Ireland.

The tradition of how to wear this ring is very distinctive. If the owner of the ring wears it with the crown pointing towards the finger nail, he or she is said to be in love or married. To wear the ring with heart pointing to the finger nail, he or she is said to be unattached to anyone.

Thomas Dillon's Claddagh Gold Museum

Thomas Dillon Jewelers are the original makers of the Claddagh Ring and also the oldest jewelers in Ireland. Dillon's Claddagh Gold was established in 1750, situated in Ireland's west coast capital, Galway city, the birthplace of this truly historic Irish jewelry.

Many firms make different version of the Claddagh Ring, but Thomas Dillon are the only makers with "Original" stamped on each ring. All their rings are officially stamped with a hallmark by the Irish Assay Office located in Dublin Castle. This is a guarantee of the quality of their products.

Their museum proudly houses some of the very first Claddagh rings made by Goldsmiths Nicholas Burge, Richard Joyce and George Robinson, from 1700-1800. It also displays the "worlds smallest Claddagh ring" which is on the top of a tailor's pin.

The Claddagh Ring grows daily in popularity because of it's unique design, peculiar history, sentimental appeal and close association with the ancient Claddagh district of Galway on the River Corrib. All rings are hand-made in the Thomas Dillon workshop and with over 250 years experience of crafting this famous Irish jewelry, they can guarantee true craftsmanship and excellence.