St. Valentine's Day was originally a festival celebrating an early saint called Valentinus, and today it is an official feast day in various denominations of the Christian church.
However, there were several early Christian martyrs called Valentinus, and three of them - St Valentine of Rome, St Valentine of Terni, and a third of whom virtually nothing is known apart from his name - share the festival that much of the world now celebrates every year on 14th February.
It was the 14th century English poet Chaucer who first linked St Valentine with stories of romance and courtship, and over the centuries this has gradually evolved into the traditions we follow today - giving gifts, cards, chocolates, jewelry, and flowers to those we love.
The history of St. Valentine is rather vague, and considerably embellished, although there are several recurring themes. Records dating back to the 5th or 6th century indicate that a priest called Valentine was jailed by Emperor Claudius II, after refusing to renounce Christianity.
Known as the "Golden Legend", the story relates that Claudius tried to get Valentine to save his life while in jail, by converting to Roman paganism, but Valentine refused and instead tried to convert Claudius to Christianity!
Valentine was subsequently executed, but not before performing a miracle by restoring sight to his jailer's blind daughter.
2. Lock and Key Necklace, DesignsbyCher 3. Silver Key Necklace,EarthEnergyGemstones
4. Angel earrings, AdroitJewelers
5. Silver Heart Earrings, BrookeJewelry
6. Silver Wedding Band, CapitalCityCrafts
An embellishment to the "Golden Legend" story, which was added centuries later, says that Valentine was in love with Julia, his jailer's daughter. According to the story, Valentine wrote a letter to Julia just before his execution, and signed it "Your Valentine".
Although almost certainly apocryphal, this legend was eventually assigned to the same Saint Valentine as that celebrated on February 14, and the greeting eventually evolved into the "From your Valentine" that appears on our greetings cards today.
Another interesting legend is that the Roman Emperor Claudius II began to prohibit young men to marry, in the belief that unmarried men made better soldiers!
Rumors circulated that Valentine wore an amethyst ring engraved with an image of Cupid, a Roman symbol of love, and would perform secret marriage rites for these soldiers on request.
In actual fact no such edict was ever issued, but it is probably because of this legend that amethyst became associated with love, and is also the birthstone for February.
A further embellishment suggests that Valentine would give parchment paper hearts to his married soldiers and converts, to remind them of both their marriage vows and their Christianity. And it is from this legend that Valentine's Day has become associated with hearts.
More JET Valentine's Jewelry (right):
7. Heart Bobby Pins, malves1009
8. Swarovski Crystal Heart Earrings, TheBrassHussy
9. Tiny silver heart ring, ELEVEN13
10. Garnet Heart Earrings, GemstonesOnMyMind
11. Silver Bangle Bracelet, JemsbyJBandCompany
12. Key to my Black Heart Necklace, ArtJewelerNYC
While a French Valentine note survives from 1415, the earliest known English Valentine was written in 1477. But by Shakespeare's day the sending of Valentines greetings had become firmly established.
However, in the Victorian era printed greetings cards began to replace hand-written notes, and after WWII the practice of giving flowers and chocolates was introduced.
Incidentally, the giving of jewelry is even more recent, and can be traced to advertisements appearing for giving diamonds as Valentines gifts in the 1980s. Naturally, the JETs think that giving jewelry is a splendid idea - with or without diamonds! Valentines Day is now a festival full of romance, gifts, cards, chocolate, jewelry, and flowers - if you're lucky!
We've picked a wide selection of romantic and heart themed jewelry from our members for you to choose from, and with something for every taste and budget there's sure to be something just for you!
Have a wonderful Valentine's Day!
13. Floral Wedding Ring, SilverSmack
14. Copper Heart Pendant, RoughMagicCreations
15. Murano Glass Heart Earrings, cooljewelrydesign
16. Swarovski Heart Earrings, NancysCrystalFantasi
17. Rhinestone Heart and Flowers Brooch, LovesVintageDelights
18. Pendant and Earrings, JewelrybyIshi
|A Victorian Valentine Card|