By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Although we associate it mainly with romance today, the origins of Valentine’s Day are actually rooted in the Roman fertility rite of Lupercalia, held in mid-February to celebrate the ancient deity who protected herds from wolves. The festivity announced the arrival of spring, with mating rituals that involved pairing women with men by a weird kind of lottery.
By the end of the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day, probably named after the priest who was martyred for marrying Christians to each other around 270 AD. Because he developed a relationship with his jailer’s daughter (whom he also apparently healed from blindness), before his execution, he wrote her a tender letter and signed it from your Valentine. And hence, the Valentine’s Day card was born.
But it wasn’t until commercially minded greetings card producers created the first store-stocked Valentine’s Day cards in the USA in the 1800s that Valentine’s Day became ‘a thing’. But the common depiction of Cupid, the Roman god of love, still refers back to the day’s ancient origins.
Today, Valentine’s Day is a chance for us to slow down what we’re doing and focus on those who stole our hearts. If you’d like to surprise your partner with an unexpected token of affection, we’ve found some great luxurious, but sustainable Valentine’s Day gifts that are like no others.
Sustainable Luxury Valentine’s Day Gifts
What do you get for the chocolate lover who’s tried it all? How about the world’s most expensive chocolate?
To’ak Chocolate is an ultra-luxurious dark, fermented chocolate aged in French oak cognac cask, retailing at a whopping $365 per bar. The exclusivity of this gift is in the production process of the cocoa – it can be compared to the precision of a vintage winemaker, or a premium small-batch whisky maker. The flavour captivates the taste buds, whilst the aroma, surface, colour sheen and sound of the “crack” provide a multi-sensory experience like no other. But this is more than just a confection, too: the brand aims to resurrect hundred-year-old cacao trees in the valley of Piedra de Plata, Ecuador, to conserve a rare species of cacao.
Your loved one will truly appreciate tasting this exceptional chocolate. Just be prepared for the potential surprises that may emerge from its aphrodisiac powers!
Paris is on its own a synonym of romance, epitomised by the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower that illuminate lovers holding hands and exchanging kisses under its magic spell. Constructed in 1889 by Gustave Eiffel, the Tower owes its twinkling effects to light designer Pierre Bideau. Every night, for the first five minutes of every hour, 20,000 bulbs make the Tower glisten in the Parisian sky.
When 450 of the Eiffel bulbs reached the end of their useful lives, they were taken down and made into outstanding ornaments. These creations were named the “Diamond Light”, which are unique pieces of the world’s most famous tower, and which come with a certificate of provenance. Beautifully packaged, each Diamond Light is one-of-a-kind and bears the marks of its life on the Tower, such as imperfections and brush strokes that testify the authenticity of the pieces.
This extraordinary gift presents your loved one with a piece of the City of Lights, and French history!
Lingerie: is it for him, or for you, really? We’re going to say both! Whilst most lingerie is made of nylon or polyester, an increasing number of sustainable lingerie brands like Skin are using materials like Pima cotton-jersey, peace silk and organic cotton lace to envelops the female silhouette with grace, sensuality and comfort. Skin’s collections feel like a natural extension of your body, and wearing this in the boudoir will surely be much appreciated by both parties!
Romantic nights are made to be candle-lit! But for Valentine’s Day, simple tea-candles won’t do. Spoil your lover instead with this luxurious scented candle by Buly 1830. In case you’re not familiar with the brand, it was launched in Paris in 1830, and has been revived by, appropriately enough, a husband and wife team living in Paris.
Housed in a green and gold box, this candle is also a beautiful object for your home, thanks to its marble container. Fabricated from only plant-based ingredients, the wax combines and is finished with a pure cotton wick. Our favourite fragrance is Retour d’Egypte, and has top and middle notes of rose petals, rosemary, blackcurrants and violet, with a base of cedar, patchouli, vetiver and musk for depth.
Scent has the power to make us fall in love. Human beings are capable of sniffing out certain parts of our potential partner’s DNA to determine whom we’re compatible with. The Science of Love at times may need a little help with an enthralling perfume, such as those by Walden Natural, made from only the finest natural absolutes, resins and essential oils.
Not sure which to choose? Their gift set includes five bottles: the unisex A Different Drummer (a spicy blast of pepper followed by notes of cedar wood, amber and sandalwood), A Little Star-Dust (a sumptuous bouquet of ylang ylang, iris and jasmine enriched with exotic Tonka bean), Castles in the Air (a fresh blend of citrus with a hint of tropical flowers and lavender), Two Eternities (a garland of forest flowers including wild roses, jasmine and iris floating above a base of bergamot and sweet orange oil), and the slightly masculine The Solid Earth (smoky petitgrain followed by a heart of vetiver and patchouli oil, finishing off with amyris).
The collection’s name gives a nod to Henry David Thoreau, whose seminal work Walden stresses simple living in natural surroundings – a perfect tribute, since these sustainable scents encourage lovers to reconnect with the primordial wonders of Mother Nature.
London based goldsmith Anna Loucah creates eco-luxury bijoux inspired by her travels and mystical imagery. Her eponymous fine jewellery brand, Annaloucah, has been seen all over London and Hollywood’s red carpets, and is one of the UK’s first Fairtrade gold license holders.
The jewellery designer spent time working with people in India, Hong Kong and Australia to help add distinctive international flair to all her pieces. There’s an endless celebration of colourful gems (all ethically sourced, of course), distinctive shapes and amuletic powers to choose from, but our pick for Valentine’s Day is to give your lover a unisex eternity pendant, demonstrating everlasting love, like the one below.
Back in the day, people used fountain pens that lasted a lifetime; with the invention of the ball point, that all changed, and disposable plastic pens became all the rage. Not great for the environment, not great for our briefcases when they leaked all over.
One company is still well known for making beautiful pens that last a lifetime: Montblanc. Their Meisterstueck LeGrand is a deep black resin based instrument with gold-coated details and surmounted by the white star emblem that evolves into Montblanc’s iconic design. A twist mechanism makes the pen work, whilst a cap made of black precious resin inlaid with the Montblanc emblem ensures it won’t leak. The lovely gift box comes with the pen, a replaceable ink cartridge and a booklet.
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