The rose: A symbol of love

10 Feb 2023 | Written by By Anna Treasure

As Valentine’s Day approaches, The Joy Club member Anna explains the intricate symbolism of roses (in their myriad of forms) and what they represent…

Many of us may be giving or receiving flowers this Valentine’s Day – or just buying some for ourselves – but have you ever thought about why roses, in particular, are given as a romantic gift? 

When you look back at history, roses have been a symbol of love for centuries. There were Egyptian, Greek and Roman gods that had links to roses such as Isis, Aphrodite and Venus who all used the rose as a symbol of love. The origins of the first red rose can be found in the tales of ancient Greek myth when Aphrodite was scratched by the thorn on a white rose and her blood created the first red rose. But roses are popular in all their different colours and there are now over 30,000 varieties of roses in a rainbow of colours for us to enjoy.

The Victorians loved all things floral and so they developed a whole language of flowers with different flowers and their colours taking on different meanings. A young woman in Victorian times would have known exactly which flowers to give or what someone was trying to say when they received them from a friend or lover.

The different colours of roses are said to have the following meanings:

  • Yellow Rose – Friendship
  • Orange Rose – Enthusiasm
  • Pink Rose – Grace, Gratitude, Joy and Admiration
  • White Rose – Innocence and Purity
  • Cream Rose – Charm and Elegance
  • Red Rose – Love and Romance

The Victorians were also responsible for the idea of giving twelve red roses. Alongside their language of flowers they also used numbers for different meanings. Twelve is used to represent perfection and completeness. The number can be found relating to twelve months of the year, twelve hours on the clock or twelve signs of the zodiac and is found throughout many religions. So by giving twelve roses the giver is suggesting a complete love or a perfect love.

The rose flowers are beautiful and soft and the scent of a rose is said to be calming and uplifting and so it is the perfect aroma for a symbol of love as the receiver feels a sense of calm and joy. There is a saying that if things are good they are ‘looking rosey’ which is another nod to the uplifting qualities of the rose. 

Rose essential oil is popular for aromatherapy and can also be found in a number of different products from skin creams to candles. And, of course, some high end perfumes for example Dior’s Miss Dior, Chloe Roses or Tom Ford’s Rose Prick all use rose oil as part of their fragrance. If you love the smell of roses you could always visit the town of Grasse on the French Riviera where many of the perfume houses such as Hermes, Chanel and Dior source their roses.

If you enjoy looking at roses there have been many beautiful paintings of them over the centuries but one of the most famous painters of roses was Pierre-Joseph Redoute who was a botanical painter in the 17th and 18th Century.  He moved in illustrious circles in France and his patron was the Queen, Marie Antionette. He became her official court artist and later, after the revolution, was the official artist of Josephine de Beauharnais, the first wife of Napoleon. One of his most popular books was Les Roses, published in 1817, and it is still as popular now as it was then.

So, whether you enjoy the scent, the image or the flower itself in one of its many colours, this month is the perfect excuse to bring some joy and beauty into your home with these magical flowers.

Did you learn something new about roses? Let us and Anna know in the comments below…

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