Valentine’s Day has its origins in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, celebrated every year in honor of Lupercus, the god of fertility and Juno, queen of the Roman gods and goddesses. At one point in the festival, on the evening of Feb. 14, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would then each choose a name out of the urn and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.

As Christianity became prevalent, priests attempted to replace old Pagan practices, so to Christianize the celebration of the Feast of Lubercus, church officials changed the name. The most popular candidate for St. Valentine was a 3rd century Roman priest who performed secret marriages against direct orders from Emperor Claudius II, who believed single men were more likely to join his army. Saint Valentine had been beheaded for helping young lovers marry against the wishes of the mad emperor. Legend also has it that before execution, Valentine himself had fallen in love with his jailer’s daughter. He signed his final note to her, “From your Valentine,” a phrase that has lasted through the centuries. In recognition of his sacrifice for love … and to lure people away from celebrating the Pagan way … Lupercalia was renamed.

There is also speculation among linguistic scholars that the name ‘Valentine’ has Pagan origins. It was customary for French peasants of the Middle Ages to pronounce a ‘g’ as a ‘v.’ Consequently, the original term may have been the French ‘galantine,’ which yields the English word ‘gallant.’ The word originally refers to a dashing young man known for his ‘affaires d’amour,’ a true galaunt. This seems a plausible explanation since Valentine’s Day has always been associated with the secular pleasures of flirtation and courtly love.

A third generation jeweler and president of Altobelli Jewelers in North Hollywood, where he has been located for 55 years, began his jewelry career at the age of 7. Earned a Graduate degree from the Gemological Institute of America in 1969. The American Gem Society conferred him Certified Gemologist Appraiser in 1981 after developing the first formal appraisal education program in the U.S. and Canada, and has been the Appraisals Committee Chair for the last 26 years. Since then he has certified over 500 appraisers. His specialty is creating one-of-a-kind custom handmade jewelry in platinum and gold.

As a premier appraiser, he has been retained by museums, legal and financial firms, insurance companies, and government agencies. He has appeared on Prime Time Live on three occasions, assisting in exposés on diamonds, synthetic stones, and pearls. He organized the first formal appraisal education program in the United States, the Certified Gemologist Appraiser for the AGS. Author of three appraisal books and producer of a film on appraisal education for the GIA. Has traveled to buy rare and exotic gemstones in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Africa, Germany, Brazil, India, Taiwan, and Japan.

Mr. Altobelli can be reached at (818) 763-5151.

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