Valentine’s Day has its origins in the story of a St Valentine of Roman, a priest in Rome who was martyred about AD 496. He had been trying to convert Romans to Christianity. Two legends developed around his name centuries after his death were that he performed secret marriages for Roman soldiers who were forbidden to marry and that he wrote a letter to the daughter of his jailor which he sign, ‘Your Valentine’.

Victorian engraved heart attached to an 18ct shell link chain (in Navette on Ruby Lane)

It was Geoffrey Chaucer in the Middle Ages who first linked St Valentine’s Day with courtly love. To celebrate the wedding of Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, Chaucer wrote:

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

[“For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate.”]

Vintage claddagh gold ring with emerald heart (at Navette on Ruby Lane)

By the 19th century, it had developed into a day on which lovers gave flowers, confectionary and hand written cards to each other.

Antique padlock with garnets, part of Victorian bracelet (at Camberwell Antique Centre)

The symbols associated with St Valentine’s Day apart from hearts include keys (giving the keys to open my heart), doves and cupids. According to ‘The Englishwomen’s Domestic Magazine’ in 1874, Mizpah rings and brooches were also given as valentines.