Valentine's Day Jewelry

The Origins of Valentine’s Day

February can be a tough month to get through. The holiday season is over, the sky is dark and the air is cold. Yet there is a magical day in February where we get to spend precious time with the one we love, and celebrate romance. Of course I am talking about Valentine’s Day, which falls on February 14th. Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, USA, the UK, France, Australia and Mexico. On this day millions of people give someone they care about a token of their love. It may be a hand written valentine, or a box of chocolates, a dozen red roses or a diamond ring. It doesn’t matter what you give, all that matters is that it comes from the heart. But how did this tradition begin? Let’s take a look at Valentine’s Day through history.

The Ancient Fertility Festival

Long before the romance, February 13th to 15th was the date the Ancient Romans celebrated the festival of Lupercalia. Lupercalia honoured Lupa the she-wolf in Roman Legend who suckled the twins Romulus and Remus that grew up to found Rome. It was also dedicated to Faunus, the God of Agriculture. The festival was to ensure purification and fertility in the city. It was run by the Luperci, Roman priests who would meet in a sacred cave and sacrifice goats and a dog. They would strip the hides off of the animals and cut them into strips and dip them into the blood. They then took the bloody strips through the streets and would slap both the ground and young women with them to ensure fertility. Lupercalia was a very popular festival that continued on into the 5th century AD when Pope Gelasius outlawed it. Some scholars believe this ancient fertility festival was converted into the Catholic holiday celebrating Saint Valentine, at a time when the Church was trying to suppress the ancient religion and spread Christianity. There are others who believe Lupercalia’s only connection to Valentine’s Day is the date and nothing more.

Who Was Saint Valentine?

Saint Valentine was a 3rd century Roman priest who was martyred on February 14th and is associated with romantic love and valentines. But so little is truly known about him that the Roman Catholic Church removed his name from their official Calendar of Feasts in 1969. So what do we know? Well there were actually records of three different Saint Valentines who were all killed on February 14th. One was a priest in Rome, one a bishop in Terni, and one was a priest in Africa. The first two Valentines were said to be persecuted and murdered during the reign of Emperor Claudius II, which has led some scholars to believe the stories may be from a combination of them both. There are few facts about Saint Valentine’s life but his legends still live on. The most well-known legend is that the Emperor Claudius II had outlawed marriage, as single young men made for better soldiers for his army. Valentine defied the law and married young lovers in Christian ceremonies. For this he was sentenced to death, and became a saint of love. Another legend had Valentine imprisoned for helping Christians, and while in jail he fell in love with the blind daughter of his jailer. Before his execution he had healed the daughter’s eyesight and left her a letter that he signed “from your Valentine”. Whether there is any truth to these stories we will never know, as it is lost to history.

Birds of a Feather

In 1382 English writer Geoffrey Chaucer wrote his poem “Parliament of Foules” for the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia. One line stated “For this was on Saint Valentine’s Day, when every bird comes there to choose his mate” which referred to the idea that birds’ mating season began in February. This appears to be the first time in history that Valentine’s day is connected to the idea of romance. On February 14th of the year 1400, the High Court of Love was established in Paris, which dealt with love contracts, marriages, betrayals and violence against women. Charles, Duke of Orleans wrote the oldest known valentine in existence in 1415 to his wife while he was imprisoned in the tower of London. By the 1600’s Valentine’s Day’s link with romance was a popular concept and was mentioned in Shakespeare’s Hamlet when Ophelia proclaimed “To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s Day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine.”

Modern Traditions

By the 18th century it was common for friends and lovers to exchange small tokens or handwritten notes on Valentine’s Day. In 1797 “The Young Man’s Valentine Writer” was published, helping men write sentimental verses in their cards. The Persian poetry of flowers had been imported into Europe, and people believed that each flower had a specific meaning. By the Victorian times people would give a bouquet of flowers to their loved ones to send a specific message. And red roses, which had been tied to passion and love since ancient times, became the number one choice to give your valentine. In the late 1800’s mass produced printed valentines began to replace hand written ones and were usually covered in lace, ribbons, and colourful pictures. Around the same time Cadbury started producing chocolates that were sold in beautifully decorated boxes. It is believed they invented the very first heart shaped box. These boxes were marketed to be used as keepsake boxes to hold letters, locks of hair and love notes. By the 1980’s jewellery companies began promoting diamonds and jewellery as the perfect Valentine’s Day gift.

Love Is Everywhere

These days over a billion Valentine’s Day cards are sold each year. And recent years have seen a rise in the number of people who send e-cards on February 14th. Even though the origins of this holiday are clouded in mystery, people just love to come together to celebrate LOVE! And why not! Whether it is little kids exchanging cards, young couples exchanging roses and chocolates, or a married couple giving the gift of jewellery, the most important thing about this holiday is not the actual gift, but the act of showing someone how much they are loved.

Holiday Marriage Proposal

Holiday Marriage Proposals

December is the month for celebrating the holidays, reconnecting with family members and proposing marriage to the one you love. Did I just say December is for proposing marriage? Yes I did! A survey conducted by TheKnot.com showed that 16% of couples get engaged in December, and a survey from event company Chillisauce showed 45% of people believe that Christmas Eve or Christmas day is the best time of the year to propose. So what are you waiting for? The timing is right! But if you are considering a December engagement let’s go over what you need to know.

Public or Private?

First of all, consider what your partner would like. Are they super outgoing and love attention or are they private, preferring to keep things intimate? If they are the outgoing type, consider proposing surrounded by friends and family. The holidays are the busiest travel time of the year as families who are usually far apart come together, and this is the perfect chance to share the moment with them. However, some people find getting everyone together quite stressful and overwhelming, and some families have more than a little drama between them. In these situations, I would suggest a more private proposal.

If your partner avoids the limelight and prefers to keep intimate moments private, a proposal very early on Christmas morning before anyone else wakes up would be very romantic. Or perhaps wait until boxing day, when you are both relaxing and your partner doesn’t see the proposal coming.

6 Holiday Marriage Proposal Ideas

If you have already decided to propose during the holidays there are so many creative ways to do it:

1. Engagement Ring Stocking Stuffer

If you propose on Christmas morning you could put the ring at the very bottom of a stocking, and as they go through all the silly stocking stuffers they will be in for a huge surprise when they find the ring.

2. Surprise Christmas Tree Ornament

Another option is a beautiful ornament hanging on the Christmas tree, with “Will you marry me?” written on it in sparkly writing.

3. Lots and Lots of Boxes

If you are with someone with a great sense of humour you could wrap the ring box in many bigger boxes, and have a great laugh while they unwrap each box, one by one.

4. Christmas Lights Proposal

If you were going to propose on Christmas Eve, you could write out the words in Christmas lights and bring your loved one outside once it got dark. Although it would require some planning and sneaking around, I guarantee it would be an amazing sight.

5. Family Time

You could also propose at the holiday dinner table, when all of your family can share in the moment.

6. Hanukkah Surprise

If celebrating Hanukkah is more your style, for 7 nights you could give your partner small gifts which reflect your relationship and on the 8th night write them a note that says ‘Marry Me’, and be kneeling on one knee with the ring in hand.

It’s a Magical Time

Family, friends, celebrations and special dinners are all great reasons to propose during the holiday season. Not to mention all the decorations and lights which provide the perfect romantic backdrop to photograph the moment. People often feel sentimental at this time of year and reflect back on the magic they felt when they were young. But it’s nice to feel a bit of magic as an adult too, and a holiday proposal guarantees your happy memories will live on forever.

Memento Mori and Mourning Jewelry

The Haunting Beauty of Memento Mori and Mourning Jewelry

Every October the air gets cooler, the nights get longer, and witches and skeletons start appearing in our neighbourhood. Our once cheerful flower gardens become graveyards, while jack-o-lanterns and cobwebs cover every door stoop. Of course this is all to celebrate Halloween, the one night a year that the spirits of the dead are said to be able to cross over into the world of the living, and the living dress in disguises to trick the spirits into leaving them alone. In keeping with this spooky holiday we will look at jewelry designed around the subject of death, in the styles of Memento Mori and mourning jewelry.

Memento Mori

Memento Mori is a Latin phrase which means “Remember that you will die” and can refer to art, jewelry, or literature that focuses on mortality. Memento Mori as an artistic genre is thought to have originated in Roman times and gained popularity in Europe in the 14th century, which coincidentally was the time of the Black Death. Memento Mori jewelry was decorated with the iconography of death, such as skulls, skeletons, and coffins. It was worn to remind the wearer of their own mortality and to inspire them to live piously and cherish their earthly life.

Memorial Jewelry

In the 17th century the Memento Mori style began to be used to commemorate the death of a particular person. Rings were the most common memorial jewelry but lockets, pendants and brooches were also produced. This jewelry would have the name and age of the deceased, and their date of death engraved into gold. The images of skulls, skeletons and coffins were still common and the jewelry was usually decorated with black enamel if the deceased was married and white enamel if they were unmarried. Money was often left in the will of the deceased for the creation of mourning rings, which were to be distributed to their close friends or family after they had passed.

Victorian Mourning Jewelry

In 1861 Prince Albert, the beloved husband of Queen Victoria died of typhoid. The queen was swept into deep mourning, which was imposed on all the British court. While the Victorian people still had a high mortality rate, it was Victoria’s response to Albert’s death that was the catalyst for the public to adopt mourning fashions. Death and grieving was a public act, and an entire industry was created to fulfill the massive demand for mourning clothes and jewelry. Skulls and skeletons were still popular motifs, as well as hourglasses, urns, willow trees, forget-me-nots and weeping eyes. In the first stages of mourning a widow was only allowed to wear black clothes and jewelry, which led to the trend of jet jewelry. Jet is black fossilized driftwood, which was mined in Whitby, England and was turned into jewelry by sculpting or faceting into beads. Because of the high cost of jet many imitations were created which led to the first plastic ever to be used in costume jewelry. Another style of mourning jewelry that gained popular was hair jewelry, in which the hair of the deceased was incorporated into the design. Some hair jewelry used strands of hair to make miniature portraits and scenes, while another style was to braid or weave the hair so that it resembled lace. Hair jewelry was a way to keep a part of a loved one with you forever. Hair jewelry went out of fashion with the rise of photography, as people opted to keep lockets with a photograph of the deceased instead.

The Perfect Halloween Accessory?

Although you can still find jewelry designs today incorporating skulls, they are usually for aesthetic purposes only and don’t hold the spiritual meaning they used to. In today’s society we don’t like to dwell on death or the idea that our lives could be over at any time. The societies of the past didn’t have that option as their lack of medical and scientific expertise meant they had very high mortality rates and death was all around them. In spite of such hardships the jewellers of the time were able to use the darkness of death to inspire such beautiful work. And while we may not want to wear jewelry as a reminder of death on an everyday basis, it is the perfect accessory for a scary Halloween.

Images Courtesy of Art of Mourning

christmas lights

Holidays that Glitter Around the World

With the holiday season upon us, it’s time to start thinking about holiday parties, gift giving and being mindful of what we are thankful for.

Just as no two diamonds are the same, holiday traditions are celebrated in many different ways around the world.

The holidays are a great time to create and revive traditions. Whether you spend the day singing Christmas carols, eating special holiday foods or watching your favourite holiday movie, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without them.

I’m Dreaming of a White Gold Christmas

December 25th 336AD is the first documented date of Christmas actually being celebrated. This was during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Then along came Pope Julius I, who officially declared that Christmas would be celebrated on the 25th of December to commemorate the birth of Jesus.

Don’t take the Pope’s word for it though, be sure to create and embrace your own customs. Christmas is many things to many people, and it is important to recognize and honour the various traditions.

While some people celebrate Advent, many of us traditionally celebrate Christmas on one specific day while others embrace all twelve days of Christmas. Great news! There are in fact twelve days of Christmas, just as the song says there is. So why not embrace a new tradition of showering your true love with gifts for twelve days in a row?

This Christmas season, while you can get a lot of mileage out of that little black dress, the right accessories can change your look from casual to Christmas party wear. Accessorize with statement necklaces, white gold earrings and simple yet elegant diamond bracelets.

White and Blue, Don’t Mind If I Do

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by the Syrians.

A Menorah is the centrepiece of the Hanukkah celebration. While the Menorah itself holds nine candles, eight of those candles symbolize the number of days that the Temple lantern blazed. The Shamash, the ninth candle, is used to light the others. While singing songs and reciting prayers, families begin by lighting one candle on the first day, two on the second day, and so on throughout the eight days of Hanukkah.

When the Syrians were in power, the Jews were forbidden to learn the Torah (Judaism’s most important text). Students would meet in secret in order to hold study sessions. If a Syrian soldier found them, however, the children would pretend to gamble with spinning tops, or dreidels, which are also a key part of the Hanukkah tradition.

The Hanukkah colors, white and light blue, represent a subtle message of celebration. We suggest choosing small accessories to accentuate your occasion appropriate outfit. If you’re feeling bold, add in a statement jewelry piece to complete the look.

And Kwanzaa Makes Three

While candle lighting is reminiscent of Hanukkah, and red and green colors suggest Christmas, Kwanzaa sets itself apart.

This week long celebration honors African heritage in African-American culture, and is observed from December 26th to January 1st, culminating in gift giving and the Karamu, or the Kwanzaa feast, on New Year’s Eve. It is a holiday celebrated by millions of African-Americans, encouraging them to remember their African heritage.

Kwanzaa colors are red, green and black. This Kwanzaa season, choose colorful accessories that highlight the culture being celebrated and jewelry that incorporates natural materials such as beads and wood. After all, the feast is a major part of the holiday celebration so you’ll want to have plenty of pieces to accessorize with.

Happy Holidays from Kimberfire

May the days leading up to your holiday be merry and bright, and may all your traditions be one of a kind.

Which traditions are memorable for you during the holiday season?

 

(Photo Credit: Anthony Quintano)