Irish Crafts – Claddagh Ring

Did you know that the Irish traditional ring is called a Claddagh ring? The shape of this ring is composed with a heart wearing on a crown and hands surround the heart. This impressive form has been attracting people ever since they first encounter. As well, celebrities all over the world pay attention to the Claddagh ring. In recent years this ring became so popular that it is sometimes used as an engagement ring all over the world.  However, including its origin, this ring is veiled in mystery. Therefore, I am going to introduce and  appeal points of this ring, as follows: a) The Claddagh ring is charming because it is in an unique design which cannot be found in other rings. As I mentioned earlier, three motifs are used in designing the Claddagh ring. The “Heart” which is located in the center of the ring, the “Crown” which is above the heart and lastly the “Hand” that is attached to the left and right to support the heart. Each of these three motifs have their own meaning. The Heart symbolizes “affection”, the crown represents “loyalty” and the hands stand for “friendship”. If we combine all these three motives the meaning of the Claddagh ring stands for  “Let Love and Friendship Reign”.

In recent years there have been various stories in circulation about the  origin of the ring, however the most popular one is that people who lived in Claddagh village willingly wore this ring and made it popular. Claddagh is a small fishing village in the western part of Ireland with a population of around 3,000 people. It is located on the west side of the river from Galway. The legend says that the meaning of the ring depends on the place and direction in which you wear it. If you put the ring facing out  on the ring finger of your right hand, it means “looking for a sweetheart”. When turning upside down on the left ring finger, it represents “engaged” .When attached in the normal direction to the ring finger of the left hand, it means “there is a lover or the person is married “.The most popular retail area is Galway, but you can get the Claddagh ring them in souvenir shops in Dublin at a cost of 10  to 50 euros.

                Aran Sweater

There is another representative Irish craft I would like to introduce. It is the Aran sweater. Speaking of Aran sweater, it is made out of rough patterns of rope. Due to its  beautiful look and warmth retaining property, it is loved and recognized by people. Originally, this knit is from a small island called Aran islands located in west of Ireland. There is famous legend related to Aran sweater. Because the fishing industry was the main industry on Aran islands, it is said that a warm Aran sweater with eye-catching wool was created for the purpose of waterproofing and cold weather. As well as work clothes, of course, it was also used as casual wear. The knitting pattern was different for each household; it was passed on from parent to child. Moreover,  if the fishermen got into difficulties and were stressed and their bodies were damaged they could not be identified. People wearing the Aran sweater could be identified due to that knitting pattern. On the other hand, critics state that actually, Aran sweater looks like clothes developed after the modern era, they have not be seen as traditional clothes for fishermen.The first person who made Aran sweater was Margaret Dirrane(1877-1965). She was born on Aran Islands but when she was 19 years old, she went to Boston in the United State because she worked away from home as a maid. At that time, a lot of Irish women went to Boston to work. Basically she loved knitting, she learned various traditional types of shape from immigrated people from Europe and Northern Europe. After finishing her work, she returned to Aran Islands. At that time, the main pattern of fisherman sweater was Guernsey sweater, however she arranged it using her brilliant skills gained during a break between work in the United States. Thus, the Aran sweater was born and spread around Aran Islands.

Anyway, both stories about the Aran sweater are interesting. The Aran sweater is tough and has high endurance. If you have the opportunity to come to Ireland, you should definitely search for an Aran sweater and buy the one with your favourite pattern.

– Fukino

Images labelled for reuse and free of rights.

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