17th Century Antique Silver Pomander


Stock: 10349

Date: Circa 1600 - 1620

Country: England

An intriguing piece of history contained in a small silver sphere. The antique silver pomander was worn round the neck...

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An intriguing piece of history contained in a small silver sphere. The antique silver pomander was worn round the neck or suspended from a belt and was intended to protect the wearer from sickness. The exterior of this example is hand engraved with royal portraits, probably English, based on engravings by Simon de Passe (c. 1595 – 6 May 1647). The screw top unturns to release six hollow, hinged segments to contain dried flowers, spices and scented oils. The interior is decorated with scroll and hatched engraving. A similar example formed part of the prestigious David Little collection.

Weight 22 grams, less than 1 troy ounce.
Height 3.9cm. Spread 5.6cm fully extended.
Probably English.
Circa 1600-20.
A very charming and tactile piece.

Note. The 6th segment has been assembled correctly but curiously the portrait is upside down (the engraving is original, with a degree of rubbing).

Marks. The pomander is made of unmarked silver, which is quite usual for a small article of this date.

Literature. A Pomander is a perforated container of aromatic substances, often scents infused in wax. The term pomander first arose during the Middle Ages from the French pomme d’ambre and referred to an aromatic ball made of ambergris, civet, musk, dried flowers, spices and scented oils. It was thought that by inhaling specific aromas or simply carrying them on your person, would cure or prevent serious illness.
The Pomander scent carrier was popular in England and the continent during the 16th and 17th centuries. Usually orb-shaped, with chambers for the herbs and spices, it was designed to be worn around the waist on a rope by wealthy aristocrats. Many paintings of Queen Elizabeth I, notably the famous Darnley Portrait in the National Portrait Gallery in London, depict her wearing finely crafted examples.

Royal portrait engravings. An example of 17th century engraved portraits is on view at the Metropolitan Museum, New York – https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/202425.


Very good. Fully functional. The segments all open and close nicely. The engravings still have good definition with the exception of segment 6. Shows moderate signs of wear commensurate with age and a few prick dents.

Maker Information

No maker assigned

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