We like to blame a certain greeting card company for the annual onslaught of cupids, candy and flowers each February 14, but Valentine’s Day has been observed for more than 1500 years, with folks sharing ornate cards since before the invention of the printing press. Like many of our popular holidays, it has its roots in pagan traditions. In Ancient Rome, Lupercalia was observed February 13–15 on behalf of Pan and Juno, pagan gods of love, marriage and fertility.
Modern Valentine’s Day Traditions
Modern Valentine’s Day traditions began to emerge in the 14th and 15th centuries. According to History.com, “Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity but was outlawed—as it was deemed ‘un-Christian’—at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day.”
The article continues, “It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.”
Written valentines began to appear sometime after the year 1400, about the same time that the modern heart shape appeared and became associated with romantic love. The association of hearts with Valentine’s Day reached a frenzied peak during the Victorian era. According to Art & Object, “Valentine’s Day gained popularity in the seventeenth century, when it involved simple love notes, often adorned with hearts. The Victorian obsession with elaborate greeting cards made Valentine’s Day into a heart-bedecked extravaganza, a custom continued by modern greeting card companies today.”
The heart symbol itself is quite ancient, though early appearances are associated with shapes found in nature, such as fig and ivy leaves. In the 5th–6th century BC, the heart shape was used to represent the heart-shaped fruit of the lost plant silphium, which was possibly used as a contraceptive and an aphrodisiac.
Valentine Hearts at Tiny Oak
The Tiny Oak studio holds an entire box devoted to heart-shaped beads, in glass, gemstones and crystal. In my personal collection you’ll find a variety of gemstone hearts. My favorite is a richly-veined pink rhodocrosite, and I’m also super fond of my three swirled Shiva eye hearts. Last year I gave away three beautiful rose quartz palm stones. Naturally, I had to get one of my own.
In the collection you’ll find sparkling green glass heart earrings and a matching pendant with a Victorian flair, a gemstone-bedecked rose quartz heart necklace, lots of heart-shaped earrings and a choker or two. For big heart energy, check out our Lapis & Lampwork or This Heart of Mine necklaces. And if you’re in a giving mood, don’t miss our Love to Ukraine earrings and friendship bracelets. There’s far too much to list in a post, but you can browse all of our valentine heart-shaped jewelry here!
The History of the Heart Shape
History of Valentine’s Day
Cover photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash