A box of heart-shaped chocolates has become a Valentine’s Day staple around the world. Have you ever wondered where this tradition of giving chocolates in a heart-shaped box originated? Chocolate has been associated with love for centuries, but it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that chocolate became a popular gift for Valentine’s Day!
Chocolate became popular in the mid-19th century when British company JS Fry & Sons made the first chocolate bar, mixing cocoa powder, sugar, and cocoa butter to make a rich, melt-in-your-mouth snack, versus the tough and greasy drinking chocolate that was losing popularity in Europe. Within a few years, rival Cadbury launched its first box of chocolates. It was called the ‘fancy box’ and it didn’t take long for it to become popular.
Red Heart Box of Chocolates
Solid chocolate candy – the stuff that comes in a heart-shaped box – was a product of technology.
One British chocolate maker found a use for it: it turns out that by adding a small amount of melted clarified cocoa butter back into the cocoa solids, then adding sugar and other flavorings, you get a mouldable “melt-in-your-face ration that can be mass-produced and sold at an affordable price.” This new chocolate is more readily available. You can buy one or several sweets depending on your financial situation.
It is almost certainly hardly a coincidence that the new possibilities of solid chocolate candies coincide more or less perfectly with the invention of the contemporary Valentine.
The combination of chocolate and heart-shaped boxes seems to have been a natural progression, but the National Valentine’s Day Collectors Association says that heart-shaped boxes actually predate chocolate boxes. A century ago, heart-shaped vessels of all kinds, including ‘engagement pendants’ and heart-shaped silver boxes, were commonplace. There were even heart-shaped porcelain boxes and sewing ones.
Red Heart Shaped Gift Box with Bow Knot
Regardless of the cost, the basic premise of a heart-shaped chocolate box is always much the same. It is a box. Inside, there are chocolates. The box is heart-shaped. Usually, the heart-shaped box is made of cardboard and is red, but sometimes it is pink or purple, or all three, with gold accents.
Sometimes it is tied with a real ribbon. The content also varies and is very narrow in scope. In its most classic form, the heart-shaped box contains a variety of individual chocolates, presumably because they would be prettier if they were different from each other.
Pink Heart Shape Chocolate Candy Packaging Box with Ribbon
It is a logical pairing. Hearts are associated with romantic love. Chocolates are associated with romantic love. Chocolates need boxes, and the boxes have to be shaped like something.
The heart shape retains its iconic status – love! -even as medical advances have given way to sensual objects shaped like hearts but not brains for centuries. Necklaces. Valentine’s Day. The pizza. Boxes.
The boxes predate chocolate, says Nancy Rosin, president of the National Valentine’s Day Collectors Association. There are engagement pendants, and heart-shaped boxes for storage, but they are hollow boxes. Needle and thread boxes with hearts. Heart-shaped porcelain boxes. There are even antique valentines, which are not boxes but do technically often require some sort of box-like interaction where the recipient peels back the layers, unfolds and folds, and pulls the tab to reveal a secret message or picture hidden in the heart.
So chocolates are romantic. Heart-shaped boxes were romantic. By the 1840s, Valentine’s Day had become a commercial holiday that had to be celebrated as both an expression of love and a romantic gift in the form of a heart-shaped box.
Today, it is estimated that over 35 million boxes of heart-shaped chocolates are sold each Valentine’s Day. From truffles to toffee, heart-shaped boxes are now filled with every kind of confection you can imagine. If you’re still looking for the perfect heart-shaped box for your Valentine this year, shop our selection in our Valentine’s Day collection.
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