Among the gifts brought home from long whaling voyages by our sailors were the shell mosaic souvenirs that have come to be known as sailors' valentines. Away for years at a time, lonesome sailors kept themselves occupied during the interminable idle hours at sea by making presents for their loved ones.
As romantic as this thought is, it turns out that the cottage industry was started on the island of Barbados by a Mr. Belgrave who owned a marine curiosity shop. The typical octagonal glazed wood cases framing elaborate designs made of many seashells in symmetrical patterns first appeared early in the nineteenth century. This art form continued till the 1880's when the whaling industry started to decline.
Many were made with hearts in the center to show the sailors love. Some had roses, anchors, photos and mottos. Antique sailors' valentines that are valued in the tens of thousands are passed down through generations of family members.
I hope you will feel the same with this sailors' valentine and cherish it as you pass it down as a new heirloom for your family.
Seashell Heirloom Valentines