Vintage and Antique Gift Ideas for Her on Valentine’s Day

When Esther A. Howland, “the Mother of Valentines,” began selling the first mass-produced Valentine greeting cards in America, Valentine’s Day gift giving became an annual event.This beautiful Esther Howland Valentine Card sold for $34 in July 2017.

It’s a dilemma for most men on the run up to Valentine’s day, all the way back to the 1840s when Esther A. Howland, “the Mother of Valentines,” began selling the first mass-produced Valentine greeting cards in America and Valentine’s Day gift giving became an annual event. The last minute yearly purchase of grocery store flowers and chocolate most boyfriends and husbands fall back on, lacks originality and is almost as bad as not buying anything at all. Why not be a Valentine’s Super Star this year and come up with a gift that that says, “I put a lot of thought into this,” and go with a vintage or antique gift this year? What to get is as simple as being aware of what your loved one’s interests are, how they decorate their home, the type of jewelry they like to wear, and types of accessories that they choose. Knowing these things about your loved one opens the realm of great unique Valentine’s gifts to give for years to come, gifts that few of her friends will receive.

The number one “go to” I would suggest would be vintage jewelry related items and fashion accessories, which can also be far less expensive than comparable new items at retail. The other appeal is that vintage and antique items are truly unique compared to what’s available at your local mall jewelry shops. One on this unique list of Valentine’s gifts I would suggest would be an antique jewelry box to put future gifts in. Such boxes come in many forms and materials from tortoise shell to sterling silver. Other than the sterling silver examples though, most them are unmarked, so determining their vintage and origin is a matter of style and the materials used in their construction.

This exotic antique Indo-Anglo piece in rosewood and bone/ivory, probably dates from the late 19th Century. It sold for $111 in April 2012.

The jewelry box above is an exotic antique Indo-Anglo piece in rosewood and bone/ivory, probably dating from the late 19th Century. This style will typically sell for under $120.00. Examples like this one were often popular gifts sent back home by British troops or Diplomatic Corps, stationed in the far reaches of the former British colonies when Victoria was still Queen.

This Art Deco 1920’s jewelry box in sharkskin and ivory, sold for $163.55 in December 2013.

Here in the photo above is an Art Deco 1920’s example in sharkskin and ivory, which generally sells for less than $175.00. Jewelry boxes like this one were made all over Europe; some boxes will have markings on any mounts that are silver or on the locks that could aid in identifying a country of origin, but most carry a minimum of markings or none at all.

This lovely brass bound walnut jewel box, circa 1870, will not blow the budget at less than $175.00.

Pictured above is a gift that would top anyone’s list, a lovely brass bound walnut jewel box, circa 1870, which will not blow the budget at less than $175.00. Ones like this often had secret compartments built into them for hiding love letters.

Second on the list would be jewelry to put in one of these boxes; bracelets, earrings and necklaces are the favorites I would suggest. Like the jewelry boxes, they can be found in a huge range of values and materials, but one does not have to break the bank to find a unique example in styles from Victorian to Art Deco.

This Wachenheimer sterling and onyx bracelet and necklace sold for $99 in September 2016.

The set pictured above, is an 1930 Art Deco example of a sterling and onyx bracelet and necklace set by Wachenheimer. Wachenheimer Bros. was located in Rhode Island with a showroom on Fifth Avenue in New York City. They began operations in 1905, producing Edwardian style jewelry and remained in production until about 1934 producing Art Deco style pieces.. They were best known for their sterling silver with semiprecious stones and faux gems. Their most popular lines were from the “Diamonbar” line and their flexible bracelets with faux gems. By the end of the 1920’s, Wachenheimer focused on their ” Real Stone Jewelry” line; the stones most often used were chrysoprase, onyx, lapis and carnelian, with sterling silver being the metal used in their construction. 

These Wachenheimer Art Deco dangle screw back earrings with green onyx stones and sterling silver mounts sold for $125.00. in August 2016.

Wachenheimer also made earrings like this Art Deco pair in the photo above, from the early 1930’s. These Art Deco dangle screw back earrings with green onyx stones and sterling silver mounts sold for $125.00.  Most comparables tend to sell for under $200.00.

This mixed set, which consists of a Wachenhiemer bracelet and a set of earrings by an unknown maker, sold for $175 in January 2013.

While it is still possible to find complete matching sets, mix and match sets are also attractive options as well. This mixed set consists of a Wachenhiemer bracelet and a set of earrings by an unknown maker. The earrings, with the sterling silver mountings and carnelian stones, pair up well together with the Wachenhiemer bracelet. According to our Worthopedia this set sold for $175.00. Most comparables will sell for under $200.00 and also have the potential of increased value over time, unlike most modern jewelry that loses over half its value as soon as it leaves the store. So happy hunting fellas, it will be Valentine’s Day before you know it.


Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement. He can be reached through his website Antique-Appraise.com.

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