HISTORY OF SAILORS' VALENTINES

The Story of Sailor’s Valentines evokes romance – majestic sailing ships and long sea voyages, adventures in the new world, and daydreams of loved ones across wide oceans.

Idle hours aboard whaling ships in the 1800’s was thought to be the time and place for crafting Sailor’s Valentines. However the creation of Valentines was actually a cottage industry on the island of Barbados. Once a stopping point on long sea voyages, sailors happily ordered and/or purchased a Valentine to bring home a present to a family member or loved one.

A true sailor’s valentine was said to include a flower design, a heart in any form, and a special verse or message. Many of these pieces had messages inscribed with small seashells such as “Think of Me”, ” Timeless Treasure” and “Forever and Ever”.

Some expressed a bit of sadness which represented the feelings of men whose jobs kept them away from home for long periods of time. Many left a space for the insertion of a picture, perhaps a wedding photo or a photo of the sailor and his sweetheart.

Restoration and repair of sailors valentines - antique and new
an antique sailors valentine restoration for a client in Canada

These works of art were made in octagonal wooden boxes and were usually two sided and hinged, covered with a glass overlay, and closed with a heart shaped lock. When closed, the shell work is hidden and the glass protected so that the Valentines could be stored safely for travel.

It has been discovered that other Valentines were made during the Victorian era, later described as “fancy work for ladies”. Possibly the shells used in the pieces were gathered by sailors on their sea journeys.

Do you have an antique sailors valentine that is a sentimental gift or family heirloom that is need of repair? Sandy Moran can restore your valentine using her collection of old shells.

Sailors Valentine Studio - Custom sailors valentines, repairs and classes

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