Valentine’s Day gifts for some don’t always mean chocolate, hearts, cards or flowers. Sometimes that gift from the love of your life is constructed in a way that many have never had the pleasure to witness for themselves. A Sailor’s Valentine is one of those very gifts.
A sailor’s valentine is a tradition that started way back in the 1800’s. Sailors from overseas or across the nation would purchase, trade or make nautical tokens during their voyages at sea. There is no limit to the items that can be placed in a sailor’s valentine. One of the most common objects used were small shells that were collected from various stays in different countries.
A wooden shadow box was constructed usually in an octagon shape. Then the treasures that came into their possessions were then strategically placed inside the box. The designs were unlimited for the sailors each did what came from their very own hearts while thinking of their loved one that was left behind as they courageously served their country.
The shells could be in the shape of stars, hearts, rosettes and flowers. They could have sayings placed in the boxes or special stones that they found along the shores or in their paths that stood out and wanted to share with the one they loved.
The earlier sailor’s valentines are extremely rare and now considered collector’s pieces. A hand crafted treasure from the heart has a sentimental value that is priceless. Although, anyone who has or collects these antique and aged crafted boxes know that there is a hefty price tag attached to them.
There are many sailors from Winona , Mississippi that may do just this very thing for Valentine’s Day for their special Valentine. This author knows one retired sailor that did that very thing himself. For those sailors in Winona who aren’t as crafty as they would like to be need not worry. A handcrafted heirloom shadow box with all its beautiful shells can be obtained through a kit. There is a company called the Nantucket Sailors Valentine Kits that offers a catalog of choices to choose from. Along with the full kits that are available online they also offer completed Sailor’s Valentines too. The completed Valentine cost is $199 and the kits to complete are $125. The boxes themselves are 9 inches and are made of cherry wood. This is a gift that keeps on giving year after year and tells the tales of many a sea story.
Many years ago, 1978 to be exact, a sailor who later became my husband sent me through the mail his own sailor’s valentine. It was made with delicate pink rose petals that were preserved in a floral pattern that was absolutely beautiful. It was a special gift from his heart that I treasured.