Monthly Archives: November 2008

Irish Jewelry – it’s not just for the Irish!

Irish jewelry has a lot to offer all kinds of people, and it’s not just the Irish. Many of the ancient symbols incorporated in this jewelry are of Celtic origin, with meanings that transcend traditional boundaries of nationality and race.

For example, one of the best known Irish symbols is the Irish Claddagh symbol. However, there is nothing uniquely Irish about the meaning of this Irish symbol. It stands for love, loyalty, and friendship – values which are found in all wonderful relationships. The Claddagh can be found on a variety of rings, pendants, earrings, and bracelets.

Celtic crosses are also found on a variety of Irish jewelry, and are perfect for use as a religious gift. Though some of these crosses do actually pre-date Christianity, they are closely associated with Christianity today. In fact, most of them were erected by Irish monks in the 7th century. A gift of Irish jewelry that displays a Celtic cross can often be thought of more a religious item than strictly just an Irish one.

Another beautiful example of Irish jewelry that’s perfect for one and all is Irish wedding rings. Many of these rings do contain traditional Irish symbols, but their meaning applies to all marriages, not just Irish ones. Of course, the Claddagh ring is a great example of this, but there are certainly others. The nice thing about the Claddagh ring is that is starts as a friendship ring, worn on the right hand. The direction that the heart faces can then be reversed, signifying that you have given your heart to another. Finally, you can wear the ring on the left hand – a way of wearing the Claddagh ring that signifies marriage, or permanent commitment.

When looking at the wide array of Irish jewelry today, don’t just focus on the Irish symbols and origins of the designs. Dig a little bit deeper into the actual meaning of the symbols and designs. You’ll soon discover that Irish jewelry can be worn and loved by just about anyone!

Irish Gifts – Popularity, and Choices

To many, Ireland is a mystical place, full of history, and ancient traditions. Today, it has emerged into a thriving nation with a highly-educated workforce, and prosperity previously unknown to the country.

As a result, are Irish traditions still alive and well? I believe so, and I think one of the most important indicators is the Irish gifts industry. All indications indicate that manufacturers and retailers of Irish gifts continue to fare well. Google trends does show a small decline in the activity for the term Irish gifts, but there remains a very sizable portion of the population of many countries that can trace their heritage back to Ireland. In the US, for example, it is estimated that 12% of the US population can trace their routes to Ireland. That’s roughly 36 million Americans.

Consumption of Ireland’s most favorite export, Guinness is also suffering a decline. However, I firmly believe that has more to do with the massive amounts of marketing now being conducted within Ireland (and other nations) due to recent economic booms.

However, the population of Ireland, and the size of that group of people claiming Irish descent is only growing. Most Irish people that I know (in the US, and in Ireland) are keen to keep a connection with their Irish heritage, and it would be unusual to find their homes devoid of Irish décor items, Irish collectibles, etc. In fact, most Irish people I know take great pride in presenting an Irish gift to another person, be they Irish or not. The purpose of a gift, after all, is to show the other person that you care about them, and that you have put thought and personal commitment into their gift. I think Irish gifts do that very well!

Different Types of Irish Gifts
To be honest, that is a near impossible topic to cover. There are as many Irish gifts as there are Irish people. That said, the major Irish gifts that I see are Irish jewelry, Irish pub items, and Irish home décor items. Let’s take a quick look at what’s available in each group.

Irish Jewelry
Perhaps the best known piece of Irish jewelry is the Claddagh ring. However, there are also items that are inspired by traditional Irish symbols, Celtic knots, and family crests (or coat-of-arms). Rings and pendants are probably the two most common pieces of Irish jewelry that feature either the Claddagh, Celtic knotwork, or a traditional Irish symbol, such as a Celtic cross. However, rings can be a less than ideal gift unless you know the person’s ring size. For that reason, I often consider the pendant as the best choice in Irish jewelry, unless you are really set on presenting a ring. Both definitely make excellent Irish gifts.

Irish Pub Items
The popularity of various Irish beers, and Guinness in particular, has made Irish gifts featuring their logos extremely popular. With Guinness, for example, there is almost an infinite supply of barware, rugby shirts, hats, and other clothing that features the Guinness logo. Irish pub signs are also very popular gifts, particularly those with an old time feel and look to them.

Irish Home Décor
Last, but certainly not least, is Irish home décor. In this group, Irish gifts can range from mugs, to teapots, and from manufacturers such as Belleek to Mullingar Pewter. The breadth of offerings from these Irish gift makers is enormous. Suffice to say, whatever accessory or décor item that you are looking for, you can probably find it.

Regardless of what type of Irish gift you decide to give, the important thing is the personal touch and thought that you put into selecting it. There is a myriad of choices, and whatever you decide, you will be able to present it with the very best of Irish pride!

The Claddagh Ring: Irish For Love, Loyalty & Friendship

The Claddagh ring is one of the most popular and well known pieces of Irish jewelry today. It can be found in virtually every Irish shop, and jewelry store in existence. No collection of Irish jewelry would really be complete without one!

The History of the Claddagh Ring
Though there are two tales regarding the origin of the Claddagh ring, the more believable of the two is the story of Richard Joyce. According to legend, Joyce was captured whilst working as a fisherman, by pirates. He was then sold into slavery, eventually becoming an assistant to a Turkish goldsmith. Joyce learned the goldsmith craft under his new master for approximately 8 years. He was then released from slavery, and returned to Ireland. He settled in the town of Claddagh (just outside what is known today as Galway city) and designed and crafted the first Claddagh ring.

The Design of the Claddagh Ring
The Claddagh ring does not contain many of the traditional Irish symbols found in other pieces of Irish jewelry. Instead, it has its own unique design of the heart, hands and crown. The heart represents love, the hands represent friendship, and the crown represents loyalty. There have been versions of the Claddagh ring produced without a crown, as some thought it too reminiscent of the British Monarchy. However, the design that includes the crown is by far the most popular today.

How to Wear the Claddagh Ring
Depending on how an individual wears the Claddagh ring, it can mean different things.

Worn on the right hand with the top of the crown pointing towards you
Means that you are open to a new relationship
Worn on the right hand with the top of the crown pointing to the tip of your finger
Means that your heart is now taken, and you are no longer available
Worn on the left hand with the top of the crown pointing to the tip of your finger
Means that you are now married and have bonded with another forever

Consider a Claddagh Ring for Your Irish Wedding
As you can tell from the section on wearing the Irish Claddagh ring, there is a way to wear this ring that denotes marriage (or permanent commitment). When you consider the meaning of the Claddagh ring, it is easy to see why this ring would make the perfect wedding band. The simplicity of its design speaks volumes, and when worn on the left hand, it has significant meaning. It is certainly a great way to remember your or your spouse’s Irish heritage. Claddagh rings are unisex in nature and are perfect for either men or women.