Often seen as a decorative element in jewelry, this familiar symbol embodies several values that have long been key components of human culture.
The claddagh takes its name from the place of its birth: a fishing village in County Galway on the west coast of Ireland. The symbol in its current form is relatively new- dating from the 16th and 17th centuries- but it may have been based on the Fede, a similar motif popular among the ancient Romans.
The image of two hands clasping a heart has obvious connotations of love and fidelity, and as such the claddagh is often incorporated into the design of wedding rings. The symbolism of the ring itself (protection and commitment) further enhances the impact of the claddagh. The symbol can also be used in a more informal context to show affection and devotion between friends.