As the years roll on, more and more pseudo holidays are added to an already pretty packed calendar of holidays; Boss’s Day, Secretary’s Day, my birthday. It seems there’s a never ending supply of holidays nowadays. But this month one of the real ones comes around... Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day started back in the middle of the Roman Empire when a Bishop named Valentine, who was about to be beheaded, passed notes to the woman he loved (the daughter of the guy cutting his head off) by writing them on small pieces of paper and having people pass it around till it got to her. He signed them, From your Valentine. Then he got his head chopped off. Sweet story, huh?
That is the unofficial story of how the tradition of passing Valentine’s Day cards to people began. That in turn got me to thinking about how Valentine’s Day began for me and how it has changed through the years. My years now, not real years. Let go back to the beginning...
I was in a Hallmark store shopping for just the right card for my girlfriend Mary. It had to be just right. My mom took me in and I had a really big budget for this card. I think I had around 50 cents. I really wanted Mary to be impressed with this card (meaning it had to be bigger than the 28 I was giving to the rest of my kindergarten class) cause I really ‘liked’ her.
Funny, forty something years later I realized that I hadn’t thought about that in forty something years. Who else remembers sitting at the kitchen table the night before Valentine’s addressing 20 or 30 Valentine cards so you could give them to all the kids in your class? I wish it was still that simple sometimes.
Fast forward a few years and there I was looking for just the right card to give Shelly. But this time it was different. Shelly wasn’t just getting a card, Shelly was getting a card along with a pack of those hard little heart shaped candies with the cute sayings on them that we all used to eat and were told it’d rot our teeth out. That was my first Valentine present to give to a girl. I don’t have Shelly anymore, but at least I’ve still got all of my teeth.
Fast forward a few more years and there I was again, looking for just the right card again to give Leanne. And it had to be just the right card because I wanted her to know how much I ‘liked’ her. She was getting a card and a box of chocolates. I found just the right card but chickened out on giving it to her and just gave her one of the generic ones that I gave everyone else and ate the chocolates myself. Not my first time to chicken out mind you, just my first time to chicken out on Valentine’s Day. If you’re keeping score, that’s Cupid - Zero. Me - Zero.
A few short years later and I’m up to my eyeballs in Valentine’s. No, not dates, the real Valentine’s stuff we all know and love. This was my first year in the jewelry business. It was here I learned how much the card meant. It meant, “this better just be a prologue to some jewelry.” That first year was nuts. I was working at a Best Products catalog showroom in Dallas, TX and we knocked it out of the park that year.
That was the first year I didn’t buy a Valentine’s card for anybody because I was too busy working to get around to it. That and I’d learned that chickening out was better than the alternative... rejection. My teen years were hard. What can I say?
A few years later I was working at a fine jewelry store in Carrollton, TX and Valentine’s Day was a big deal at the store. It was here I learned that buying jewelry to go with the card was the way to roll. So, with my whopping budget of $25, I bought a cute little bracelet to put inside the card I was giving to Teresa. I bet your wondering how that worked out? I’ve still got the card in a box somewhere unopened. Yep, you guessed it, I chickened out... again.
Fast forward a few more years and now I’m out of jewelry school and I’m a full time working bench jeweler. This was my first Valentine’s that I actually planned my present a month or so in advance since I was now going to make it myself. That particular year though I’d forgotten to buy a card and had to stop at a Kroger at 6:00 pm on Valentine’s night to get a card. Slim pickings is putting it mildly.
But the card didn’t matter, because this year I had a card AND a small little gift wrapped box with a custom made piece of jewelry for Gretchen. Want to know how that one turned out? Sorry, I don’t kiss and tell, but let’s just say I didn’t chicken out and I learned the power of giving jewelry to a woman on Valentine’s Day. My life was never going to be the same. Hell, I’m smiling right now just thinking about it.
So now let’s fast forward to EVERY Valentine’s Day since that one and examine some of the gifts I’ve given:
- A toaster oven (hey she wanted one)... and a pair of 1/2 ct. total weight diamond studs. It worked.
- A vacuum cleaner (hers broke)... and a diamond and emerald necklace. It worked.
- Lingerie (that was really for me and it looked great lying on the floor)... and an amethyst and diamond bracelet. It worked.
- A Koi Pond (okay, that was for me too)... and a 1.15 ct. diamond engagement ring. It worked (for about 2 years).
- A nice set of steak knives... that was all. I was divorced by now and really needed the knives.
So, what have we learned here? Cards are nice. Flowers are nice. Fancy dinners are nice. Toaster ovens, vacuum cleaners, and lingerie are all nice. But... they are all ‘B’ level presents on one of the most important holidays of the year to women. You can give them as gifts, but they’d better be accompanied by a well thought out piece of jewelry.
And guys out there, if you don’t give her jewelry on Valentine’s Day, you won’t have to pull the old “I don’t kiss and tell” with your friends. They’ll already know how your night didn’t end!
A note to the bench jewelers out there: Don’t forget about the hand soap by Mary Kay called Satin Hands with the built in moisturizers. I’ve been using it for two years now and my hands and calluses haven’t cracked or split once. I highly recommend all bench jewelers use this soap in the winter. You’ll love this stuff. If you don’t have a Mary Kay rep, call McKensie at 615-517-8081 and she’ll take care of you.
Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide.