Sailors’ Valentines are an old romantic art form using shells, I’ve always wanted to make one or find a vintage one. I love that the shells tell a story of love. The craftsmanship is absolutely amazing, and would make a great Valentine’s Day gift. You can find some decently priced ones on Etsy, but they can also get pricy. Do a little Google searching and I’m sure you’ll find one you’ll like.
Visit Nantucket Sailors’ Valentines to purchase finished Sailors’ Valentines. Right now they have 7 to choose from.
About Sailors’ Valentines
The Story of Sailors’ Valentines evokes romance – majestic sailing ships and long sea voyages, adventures in the new world, and daydreams of loved ones across wide oceans.
Idle hours aboard whaling ships in the 1800’s was thought to be the time and place for crafting Sailor’s Valentines. However the creation of Valentines was actually a cottage industry on the island of Barbados. Once a stopping point on long sea voyages, sailors happily ordered and/or purchased a Valentine to bring home and present to a family member or loved one.
A true Sailors’ Valentines was said to include a flower design, a heart in any form, and a special verse or message. Many of these pieces had messages inscribed with small seashells such as “Think of Me”, ” Timeless Treasure” and “Forever and Ever”. Some expressed a bit of sadness which represented the feelings of men whose jobs kept them away from home for long periods of time. Many left a space for the insertion of a picture, perhaps a wedding photo or a photo of the sailor and his sweetheart.
These works of art were made in octagonal wooden boxes and were usually two sided and hinged, covered with a glass overlay, and closed with a heart shaped lock. When closed, the shell work is hidden and the glass protected so that the Valentines could be stored safely for travel.
It has been discovered that other Valentines were made during the Victorian era, later described as “fancy work for ladies”. Possibly the shells used in the pieces were gathered by sailors on their sea journeys.
Here are a few of our favorite pieces from around the web.