For the large Irish Diaspora in the United States, celtic symbolism is often seen as unique way of celebrating Irish heritage and ancestry. The US Migration Policy Institute estimates that there are approximately 39.6 million people living in the United States who claim to have full or partial Irish ancestry.
The Irish have long been associated with having a significant impact in shaping the development of America during its formative years. The Irish communities tended to congregate in the large urban sprawls of New York, Chicago and Boston, and their influence could often be evident in public service such as the police and fire departments. As late as the 1960s, it was estimated that approximately over 40% of the New York’s Police Department claimed Irish American heritage.
The many Irish stores dotted throughout the US, Ireland and worldwide provide a range of traditional Irish gifts and celtic jewelry which are a great way for the extensive Diaspora to connect with their roots.
The Claddagh in particular is a firm favourite with the Irish both home and abroad whether it’s adorning clothing, pottery, accessories and jewelry. The Claddagh symbol traces its origins to County Galway in the west of Ireland, where the first Claddagh rings (fáinne Chladaigh) were made.
A Claddagh ring traditionally represents love, loyalty, and friendship — the hands represent friendship, the heart represents love, and the crown represents loyalty. The design and customs associated with it originated in the Irish fishing village of Claddagh, located just outside the old city walls of Galway, now part of Galway City. The ring was first produced in the 17th century.
Of key significance too is the manner in which a person wears a claddagh ring. When worn on the right hand with the heart facing inward toward the body indicates the wearer is in a relationship, or that “someone has captured their heart.” If the ring is worn on the left hand facing outward away from the body generally indicates that the wearer is engaged.
Many of the Celtic designs on other items of celtic jewelry are strongly influenced by the ancient Book of Kells. The manuscript is so influential that most of the Irish jewelry being crafted today, like pendants, celtic rings, brooches and earrings, has its roots in the exquisite calligraphy styles and unique iconic forms contained in the manuscript.