Love is in the air! Dating back to the 4th century, Valentine's Day is a holiday that has withstood the test of time. Originally known as a fertility festival in Ancient Rome called Lupercalia, the modern St. Valentine's Day is a Christian feast day held in honour of the martyr, Valentine of Rome, and has been the day to celebrate all things love and romance for centuries.
But how did the tradition come about that meant on this one day each year we shower the object our affection with flowers, chocolates, jewellery and notes expressing our undying love?
In the couple of centuries after Valentine's Day was brought into the public consciousness by William Shakespeare's Hamlet in the 1600s, the writing of love letters became more and more popular, particularly in England. The anonymous notes were printed in newspapers and eventually delivered by post. The increasing popularity of this practice led to the first Valentine's Day cards being mass-produced in the early 19th century.
The US joined the English in the making and distributing of Valentine's Day cards in the late 1800s. But it wasn't until 1913, when a greeting card company famously declared Valentine's Day a 'Hallmark holiday’, that it really took off across the world.
Interestingly, it still took a number of decades to see the gift-giving tradition of the day really take hold, due to the World Wars and widespread economic downturn. But finally in the 1980s, the decade of excess, flowers, chocolate and jewellery joined the card. The diamond industry soon followed, by promoting Valentine's as the ultimate day to truly express your love, and to do that through giving the gift of a precious stone.
And, to this day, that tradition continues strong. As sales of printed cards fall, it is jewellery that stands out from the other popular gifts due to its longevity. Flowers unfortunately die and chocolates don't last long past dessert, but jewellery has the ability to be both sentimental and romantic. It is also a keepsake, a personal item that can be passed on through generations, with memories and emotions attached for decades – and possibly centuries – to come.