Have you ever wondered why we celebrate February 14th with Cards, Roses, Chocolate or Valentine’s Day Jewelry? Or how it all began? Like so many other holidays we enjoy today, Valentine’s Day has its roots in pagan beliefs as well. Possibly dating back to before the Roman Empire. The feast of Lupercalia was a celebration which lasted from February 13th through the 15th. Held as a spring cleansing ritual to avert evil spirits, as well as restore health and fertility.
Considered little more than a pagan orgy. Once Constantine converted the Roman faith to Christianity there was a major push to abolish the Lupercalia feast. Yet deep seeded traditions die-hard, with Christians eventually deciding to transform the pagan ritual into their own celebration.
One legend claims the Roman Emperor Claudius was having trouble filling his army. To bolster the ranks with men who didn’t have family ties he banned weddings and engagements in Rome. In the story a Christian Priest, Valentine defied the Emperor by continuing to perform marriages in secret. Yet in time Claudius discovers the deception. Angered by the Priest’s defiance the Emperor orders Valentine beheaded on February 14th.
Celebrating Valentine as a martyr the church named him a Saint and pressed to replace the feast of Lupercalia with St Valentine’s Day.
Cupid’s ties to Valentine’s Day
The small rosy-cheeked cherub we all know as Cupid also has his beginnings in ancient Greek mythology. Known in early Greece as Eros, the Greek portray him as the son of Venus the goddess of love and Mars the god of war. With stories written about him as early as 700 BC.
Said to carry two arrows, one a sharp-tipped arrow of gold which fills its target with uncontrollable desire. The other a blunt tipped lead arrow which brings disdain and the desire to flee.
Cupid is generally a minor character in mythology. The one who sets plots in motion.
Often seen as a mischievous child, wilding his playful games on unsuspecting mortals. The artist sometimes portraying Cupid’s mother, Venus as she scolds or even whips the young cherub.
Yet with all Cupid’s ties to love. The association between the small winged cherub and Valentine’s Day doesn’t appear until the Renaissance. When artist and poets of the era began to use classical philosophy endowing him with complex meanings.
Today images of Cupid with his drawn Bow or that of an arrow piercing two hearts are universal symbols of love. Found on cards, boxes of candy and Valentine’s Day Jewelry.
Traditional Gifts of Valentine’s Day
As the legend grew through history it became a custom for lovers to exchange notes and small mementos of flowers on the 14th of February. Often repeating the signature “From your Valentine,”
While these gifts were modest throughout most of history, three gifts were to become icons of the special day. During the 15th century written love notes began to replace the spoken Valentine.
With Charles, the Duke of Orleans writing the first recorded Valentine’s Day card. Sending a love poem to his wife on February 14th from his prison cell in the Tower of London in 1415.
As a result young men became inspired to present a gift of roses along with their notes of love. A tradition which has grown to make a rose the second most popular Valentine gift. While chocolate would become the third.
First imported to Spain in 1528, chocolate slowly spread across Europe. Not reaching England until the mid-1600’s. Yet this wasn’t the chocolate we think of today. During this era chocolate beans were first ground into a paste, then added to water to brew a bitter drink.
It would take another two hundred years before the first chocolate bar. A creation of the Fry Company first introduced at the 1847 Worlds Fair. Then another twenty-eight years before the creation of milk chocolate as we know it today.
Vintage Costume Valentine/s Day Jewelry
By the mid 1800’s the industrial revolution was taking hold with innovations such as:
- The first machine printed Valentine’s Card in America being produced in 1850 by Esther Howland
- The creation of the Cocoa Press by Coenraad Van Houten in 1829 which led to the chocolate bar and milk chocolate.
- And the invention of the metal press was first used in 1840 to mass produce jewelry
For the first time in history jewelry became available to the public in mass, and by the 1920’s realistic imitation jewels were being produced. Costume Jewelry, as it is known, became affordable as designers such as Coco Chanel made costume jewelry acceptable.
With their success marketing Christmas jewelry, designer houses such as Krementz, Danecraft, and Jonette turned their attention to Valentine’s Day Jewelry. Department stores such as Woolworth set ablaze in a sea of red, with Roses, Velvet Covered boxes of chocolate as well as Cards of love. While also offering inexpensive jewelry to celebrate the occasion.
Although the traditional gifts remain supreme, public opinion is starting to change. Roses eventually wilt, and candy is eaten, while cards are lost or stored away leaving only memories. Yet a piece of jewelry is a reminder every time she wears it and one she will keep a lifetime.
Marketed by department stores and jewelers alike this sentiment has grown since the 1930’s. With Hallmark the most famous greeting card company in the world creating its own line of Valentine’s Day Jewelry.
By the 1980’s the Diamond Industry started to take notice of this shift in public opinion. Promoting high-end Valentine Day Jewelry with slogans such as “Hearts on Fire” and “Let Your Love Sparkle This Valentines Day. ”
Although not reached a point to rival roses, candy, or cards this Valentine, jewelry’s popularity is growing.
Collecting Valentine’s Day Jewelry
While there are numerous Valentine Costume Jewelry designs, some by well-known designers. Valentine Jewelry isn’t as widely collected as other festive pieces. Yet with growing popularity, there is no way to tell how long this will be true. For now, though, vintage Valentine’s Day Jewelry can be found very reasonably priced. From the whimical Kirks Follies to the Fine Jewelry of De Beers you will be able to find something for every taste, and priced for every budget.