From Country Living Magazine (www.countryliving.com)
February 2006 Issue
Page 48 (Sailors' Valentine section)
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Love has been expressed in many ways throughout time. During the 19th century, sailors anchoring at ports in Barbados on their way home to the United States would bring back octagon-shaped wooden boxes containing colorful, intricate shell designs that spelled out sweet messages to their loved ones. Legend had it that sailors made these pieces themselves during the long sea journeys back to their homes.
"They were actually made by craftspeople in Barbados and were brought back by sailors to the United States," says Nancy Rosin, a New Jersey collector of sailors' valentinesfor some 30 years. "One theory holds that it is doubtful that sailors made them, because the type of glue used to hold the shells wouldn't dry aboard the ships." During the Victorian era, shells were extremely popular in decorative art. "Craftspeople made many items with shells, including frames, furniture, boxes, and even wedding tiaras," says Rosin.
Today, sailors' valentines are in demand and are highly collectible among those who seek out nautical antiques, folk art, and vintage valentines. "I feel they are just as meaningful today, even if the sailors didn't make them," says Rosin. Examples can range in price from $3,000 to $35,000.
-- Sharon Graber
Photograph (top right) courtesy of Nancy Rosin
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