Love Tokens February the 14th throughout the world is known as Valentine's day, and before mentioning about the different antique jewelry pieces that were used as Valentine's Day gifts; I would just like to look at the history of how Valentines day came about. No one is quite sure as to who St. Valentine was, and dating back to the ancient Roman period there were three saints all who had the name Valentine all of whom were martyred, and the historians are still debating as to who was the most likely for the day to be named after.
1/ Art Deco Platinum & Diamond Rose. A flower that lasts forever Circa 1935.
The first was a priest at the time of the Emperor Claudius II. Claudius had decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, so he outlawed all marriage for young men. Valentine realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to marry young lovers in secret. When Valentines actions were discovered Claudius had him put to death. Still others insist that it was St. Valentine of Terni, a bishop who was the true namesake of the holiday. He too was executed by Claudius outside Rome.
2/ Victorian 18 karat gold Ribbon Bow brooch with Heart locket drop. Circa 1860
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been executed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine sent the first valentine greeting himself after he fell in love with a girl - possibly the jailer's daughter, who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote a letter signed "From your Valentine", an expression still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legend is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic, and most importantly, romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in both England and France.
3/ Victorian 18 karat gold, Ruby & Diamond heart locket pendant. Circa 1890
And it was not until the Middle Ages that Valentines Day became associated with love. In Europe it was believed that February 14th was the beginning of the birds' mating season, which added to the idea that Valentines Day should be a day of romance, and in 1375 it was the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer recorded Valentines Day as a day of Romantic celebration in one of his poems.
4/ Art Deco Platinum & Heart shaped Diamond with Diamond drop. Circa 1920
So what were popular items in antique jewelry were given as gifts? In the Victorian period and to this day heart Jewelry was always very symbolic of love and affection. At Beverley R Jewelry we have many pieces of Victorian Antique heart jewelry, that is very wearable and would make an ideal gift for that special someone. Another item in antique jewelry that was very popular as a love token was a brooch with either a cherub or cupid motif. Again at our store in Chicago, Beverley R Jewelry has several cherub brooches for that special young lady who doesn't want a piece of antique jewelry similar in design to what other people have, something that sets her apart from the crowd.
5/ Edwardian Platinum on Gold Cherub brooch. Circa 1900
Also from the Victorian period, snake jewelry was a very popular gift as a token of affection in the Victorian period. The reason being was due to the symbolic nature of the serpent form. Firstly because Antique Jewelry normally has the snake design as circular with the tail going around to the head it became a symbol of timelessness and eternity, and it was made particularly popular when Prince Albert gave the future Queen Victoria an antique serpent engagement ring set with Emeralds and Diamonds. And of course when ever Royalty do anything the rest of the aristocracy, gentry and nobility follow suit. Another symbolism of antique snake motif jewelry was that of good health, which dates back to 'Old Testament History' and the book of Exodus. Even now the symbolism for the medical profession is a pole intertwined with a double snake. The last symbolism of the antique snake jewelry was for fertility. The snake with its phallic shape has always been symbolic of fertility, as to whether it is true, I really don't know, but let us not forget that Queen Victoria, after receiving her Antique serpent engagement ring did go on to have nine children five girls and four boys. At Beverley R Jewelry, situated next to the Drake Hotel on the magnificent mile in Chicago, we have a large selection of antique jewelry with snake designs and motifs, including, antique rings, bracelets, pendants, brooches and necklaces, for those who wish to give a valentines day gift with royal connections.
6/ Art Deco Platinum Sapphire and Diamond cluster engagement ring. Circa 1930
Moving to the later Vintage periods in antique jewelry of both the Edwardian and Art Deco period, a very popular jewelry gift was the eternity band ring, which was normally diamonds set in platinum, but sometimes gold going around the entire circumference; the symbolism was timeless love, a love that would last forever, and so is a very popular gift for the very romantic. At Beverley R Jewelry we have a large selection of early Edwardian and Art Deco, platinum and diamond eternity band rings, these not only make wonderful Valentines Day gifts, but are also a piece of antique jewelry that a lot of ladies like to use as their wedding bands, with the very romantic symbolism of the long lasting and timelessness of love throughout the married life.
7/ Victorian Opal and Diamond Snake necklace. Circa 1890
Valentines Day in the antique jewelers calendar has also been a busy time for antique engagement rings, where couples like the idea of making the engagement commitment on such a romantic day. At Beverley R Jewelry, we have one of the largest, and best collections of original, unique, one of a kind, and very high quality engagement rings from the Victoria, Edwardian and Art Deco periods in Chicago. We look forward to seeing those of you looking for that special antique engagement ring that no one else will have anything similar, and will set you out from the crowd.
8/ Early Victorian 'Cushion' & 'Old Mine Cut Diamond' cluster engagement ring. Circa 1860
So far I have mentioned about special pieces of both antique and vintage jewelry specifically related to the romance of the Valentines day celebration, but in truth any piece of antique jewelry purchased from the Beverley r Jewelry antique store would make a special gift for that someone, who you want to let know they are special, and how much you appreciate having them in your life.