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ose & Starwith coral, spines & cowries Urchin Vase White Dahlia Rose and Shining Star Scallop Vase Purple Pretty Summer Bliss Peaches and Cream 1800's Island Style

History

During the whaling era, mainly in the mid-eighteen hundreds, Sailors’ Valentines were brought home by the crew of whalers as gifts for family and sweethearts. When and how the very first shell valentine was made is unknown. However, it is known that they were made in Barbados, a popular port of call for ships. A curiosity shop there sold shells and the owner most probably organized a cottage industry of native people to make the designs that came to be called the misnomer, “Sailors’ Valentines”. It has been found that only thirty-five varieties of shells, all from the Caribbean, were used in these distinctive mosaics.

Most generally the valentines were made in hinged pairs with a simple lock so that they would travel safely. The designs had paper partitions forming concentric circles, stars, diamonds and arcs that were filled with graded shells in an orderly manner. Favorite center motifs were a heart of braided pink or white shells topped with rose or featured a lush pink rose. Often valentines were planned so that photos could be inserted in the center and sentimental words were picked out in tiny shells. The quality of workmanship varied from very poor to excellent.

As the whaling days came to an end and fashion changed the valentines were put in attics, forgotten. In the mid-nineteen hundreds, the valentines re-appeared at auctions usually selling for a moderate price, since Victorian items were not in vogue. The prices have now escalated so the antiques are mainly purchased by the very rich or dedicated collectors.