Before the last Ice Age, when frozen sheets blanketed the lands and glaciers decorated the mountains, hunters in 10,000 - 8,000 B.C.E. used the now ever-present heart symbol in pictograms. Why these ancient huntsmen in Europe scrawled such a symbol remains a fascinating mystery, and their expression didn't catch on for quite some time. It was not until the Middle Ages that the image became universally used, largely due to Christian theology and the appearance of “Sacred Heart” devotion in artworks and prayers, according to PBS.
Of course, real human hearts don’t bear much resemblance to the romantic doodle we know today. So, how did we come to use such a figure? While no consensus exists, there are several theories. Slate reports that during the seventh century B.C., a now-extinct plant called silphium used as a contraceptive in the city-state of Cyrene. Primarily used for seasoning, the plant was a major player in Cyrene’s economy and the image of its seed pod, which bore resemblance to the modern-day heart shape, was minted on coins. Theorists claim the association with sex led to the symbol’s eventual connection with love.
Another hypothesis notes the link between the physical heart and heart-shaped leaves during the Middle Ages. Forbidden to dissect human bodies, Christian physicians remained mystified by the actual form of the heart. With the ivy leaf’s stem seen as a metaphor for the main artery, the leaf morphed into a symbol for the heart in medical illustrations.
Whatever its origins, today we associate the figure with varying forms of love, romance, and compassion. Whether for a significant other or your very best Valentine, heart-shaped jewelry is a timeless gift for Valentine’s Day. Girl Intuitive has many options for your gift-giving needs this February, from our beaded wire heart fashion earrings to the fresh-faced heart deco design earrings, to our Three Times the Love draping necklace.
See more heart-themed jewelry here and browse the rest of our one-of-a-kind collection.
If you need help finding the perfect match for your loved one this year, contact us!