The Sailor’s Valentine

“Waiting is a sign of true love and patience. Anyone can say I love you, but not everyone can wait and prove it’s true.” 

In the 1800s, being a sailor meant being away from home for months at a time. What was worse? The merciless days at sea or the anguish of a long-distance relationship? We may never know. But we do have proof that sailor's did pine for their loved ones while at sea...

The Origin of the Sailor's Valentine

As early as the 19th century, sailors began returning home from sea with gifts for the women they had left behind. They presented their wives and mothers with octagonal boxes inlaid with intricate patterns made of shells and seeds. The patterns depicted images representing the sailor's longing to return home. Hearts symbolized love, anchors represented the sea, a compass rose marked his return home, and there were often heartfelt messages inscribed in shells. These beautiful mementos came to be known as Sailor’s Valentines. 

An Exotic Gift

It was originally believed that sailors collected shells along their journey and made the valentines themselves. Upon further research, historians found that, interestingly, the majority of the shells and seeds used are indigenous to Barbados. It’s likely that the island had a rich cottage industry and Barbadian women made and sold the valentines to ported sailors. Either way, the sentiment and the romanticism persists. 

Today, the art of the Sailor’s Valentine lives on. A quick Etsy search loads a handful of newly made mosaics, as well as a plethora of antiques. Each tiny shell is inlaid by hand with love, so even the newer options carry a hefty price tag. 

Our Take: The SailorMAYDE Valentine

sailorMAYDE message in a bottle

This February at Sailormade we decided to craft our own SailorMAYDE Valentines. I have collaborated with my oldest friend, Lexi Mayde--a talented calligrapher and artist--to bring you our Message In A Bottle. Choose a personalized message up to 25 words to be written in script and corked inside a glass bottle. Included in the package is our True Lover’s Knot bracelet in cotton cord as well as dried flowers to prop in the glass bottle once the message has been removed. It’s the small ways we show love that mean the most. Send your valentine today! 

sailormayde message in a bottle

The SailorMAYDE Message in a Bottle is only available now through 2/24/20 for $25 on the Sailormade website.  


Leave a comment