Lasting Symbol

The still-popular Claddagh originated in Ireland back in the early 1700s

Your Irish Claddagh bar pin is a great example of its type and is from the late 19th or early 20th century. It is made of silver and the heart is inset with a piece of green Connemara marble. More typically cast as a ring, the Claddagh motif consists of two hands holding a heart with a crown atop it. The history of the Claddagh ring goes back to circa 1700 in the region of Galway, Ireland. It was here that some of the earliest Claddagh rings have been traced to Irish silver and goldsmiths. The name Claddagh came from the Irish (Gaelic) word An Cladach meaning “flat stony shore,” which accurately depicts the region in Galway and Connemara where these rings were made.

Although there are different legends as to how the Claddagh ring was invented, the history is not known for certain. The hands of the Claddagh symbolize friendship; the heart: love; and the crown: loyalty. Together the three can be interpreted as meaning friendship and love shall reign forever. Traditionally, the varied ways that you can wear the ring have different meanings which convey your relationship status:

If you are married, the ring is worn on the left hand with point of the heart towards your heart.

If you are engaged, the ring is worn on the left hand with the point of the heart away from your heart.

If you are in a relationship, the ring is worn on the right hand with the point of the heart towards your heart.

If you are single, the ring is worn on the right hand with the point of the heart away from your heart.

Connemara is located in County Galway on the west coast of Ireland and is a mountainous region known not only for its beauty but also for its rich mineral deposits and marble quarries. The marble from Connemara is quite stunning and has even been called the gemstone of Ireland. It is predominantly sage green in color and has been used for centuries in jewelry as well as buildings.

My 8-year-old daughter was recently given her first Claddagh ring from her Irish cousin when we were visiting family in Connemara. She treasures it and wears it with pride.

The sentimental value of your Claddagh bar pin, of course, is priceless because it was passed down in your family. However, I would expect a pin like this to be found priced in an antique shop for $75.


More from our series on Pamela Smart

Keeping Time

This still-functioning French carriage clock is a fine example of a quintessential 19th-century status symbol.

Blizzard in a Sphere

Did you know that some vintage snow globes can bring hundreds of dollars?

Ocean Liner Memorabilia Can Be Worth a Boatload

This International Silver Company ice bucket is worth a surprising amount.

Taking on the Spirit

African masks inspired the Cubist and abstract art movements.

Advertising a Historic Railroad

The beginning of “red carpet” treatment.

Hammered Artwork

Because it was handmade, copper repoussé was popular during the Arts and Crafts movement.

A Classic Mint Julep Cup

Mint julep cups are passed from generation to generation.
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