A more romantic legend is the story of Richard Joyce, captured by Algerian pirates on his way to the West Indies, he was forced into slavery working for a Moorish goldsmith. Joyce became a master goldsmith and handcrafted this ring design for his ladylove back home. He was released in 1689 and returned to the village of Claddagh, to his true love. He gave her the ring and she used the Claddagh as a wedding band when they married. Joyce set up a goldsmith shop, his ring design became popular, and examples of his handiwork still exist.
The ring grew in popularity, outside of this local region, spread by the help of vast exodus out of Ireland diring the Great Potato Famine in the mid 1800s. Claddagh rings were kept as heirlooms with great pride and passed from mother to daughter for use as wedding bands.
Today, this ring is worn extensibely across Irleland, either on the right hand with the heart pointing towards the findertips to signify that the wearer is "fancy free," or on the left hand with the heart pointing towards the wrist to indicate that the wearer is "spoken for."