Sailors’ Valentines

It’s been said, by many, that I am difficult to shop for. So what does one gift such a woman on her wedding day? A day when love hangs thick in the air, when the pressure is truly on.

The answer is: a Sailors’ Valentine.

Folklore tells us that these tokens were created by sailors passing time on long journeys at sea. However, research depicts stories of American and English sailors missing their loved ones and desperate to fill their hours while in Barbadian ports of call between 1830 and 1880. Naturally, I was surprised to hear that CJ, my better half, had discovered a few at Sandpiper Arts & Crafts in Georgetown, Great Exuma and later requested one be custom-made by the same local artist, Rainie Minns.

Like most Sailors’ Valentines, mine boasts shells densely arranged in a flat geometric pattern, in an octagonal wooden box. And much like the far fewer, finer Valentines, mine is three-dimensional in composition with two miniature tellins wired in the shape of a butterfly. Above fitting given that the greek meaning of the name Vanessa is, by definition, butterfly. A fact that my doting husband says he was not aware of, but I have yet to believe him.

Highly coveted, and hard to find, these intricate mosaics are priced to reflect such. While I of course would never dare ask him how pretty of a penny he spent I can rest assured it was far less than the $35,000 that avid antique collector, John Fondas notes in his aptly titled book, Sailors’ Valentine. Regardless, whatever the price, the love token will forever be a part of our story. The beginning specifically, a wedding day inspired by the theme ‘shipwreck romance’ when a groom gave his bride the most fitting gift.

And like all Valentines, ours will eventually pass hands Рfrom one generation to the next Р and with it, our story.

Happy Valentine’s Day,

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