This uniquely Irish design combines three distinct elements:
The Heart in the centre means Love (Grá)
The Crown, that sits above all, means Loyalty (Dílseacht)
The Hands, holding the heart, mean Friendship (Cairdeas)
Since Roman times, hand and heart motif rings are being made for marriage ceremonies. Some are known as “Fede” rings, from the Latin “mani in fede” meaning “hands in faith”. Interlocking pairs of rings are known as “Gimmels”, again from the Latin “gemellus” or twins. You can view an early example from the British Museum here.
The addition of the crown symbol takes this ancient design and makes it uniquely Irish.
With these hands, I give you my heart and crown it with my loyalty.
The Irish custom is to wear your Claddagh ring to signify your romantic status:
Are you in love? You should wear your Claddagh ring with the heart pointing towards your body.
If you are not yet fully committed, wear your ring with the heart pointing outward.
Married or engaged? Then wear it on the third finger of your left hand.
Still single? You should wear it on your right hand.