English Sterling Silver and Vermeil Pomander, Thomas Johnson II, London, 1919-1920
Derived from the French pomme d'ambre, meaning apple of amber, a pomander is a ball made for perfumes, as well as the perforated container that encased the scented material. They were first mentioned in literature in the mid-thirteenth century, and steadily used from the late Middle Ages through the seventeenth century. Men and women proudly wore pomanders suspended from a neck chain or belt to mask bad smells and protect against infections in pestilence. Depictions of Queen Elizabeth I often include this personal article, and Mary Queen of Scots removed a pomander from around her neck as one of her final acts at Fotheringhay Castle in 1587.
Queen Mary reportedly carried a pomander of the following recipe:
benzoin resin, calamite, labdanum, and storax balsam ground into a powder, dissolved in rose water and put into a pan over a fire to cook together. The cooked mixture was removed from the fire, rolled into an apple shape and coated with a powder mixture of cinnamon, sweet sanders, and cloves. The apple ball was then rolled in a mixture of ambergris, deer musk and civat musk to further blend in the ingredients and molded back into the apple shape.
A simple recipe popular today entails studding an orange or other fruit with dried whole cloves. This not only provides a pleasant smell, but also keeps linens moth free.
Hallmarked a year after the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, perhaps this Edwardian pomander held camphor around the neck in to protect the wearer from the deadly flu.
This large, egg-shaped example of bi-fold hinged construction has a vermeil or gilt interior to protect the silver from corrosive elements. The solid bail with eye-loops on each end provides more strength to support the pomander's substantial weight.
Sponsor, standard, assay, date and duty mark on one half; corresponding standard and date mark on other half.
3 1/2" length, 2 1/4" width. 3.8 troy ounces.