What Is a Posy Holder?

What Is a Posy Holder

Posies were carried in medieval times to ward off the plague. They were ineffective, but the sweet smell at least warded off the fouler smells of the time.

In the 19th century, it was clear that posies were not effective at preventing disease. Fashion still dictated that carrying posies was en vogue, however.

At its core, a posy/nosegay is a small bunch of flowers. In Victorian times, such a posy was often referred to as a tussie-mussie, with particular flowers conveying a specific message (floriography) eg. crocus – gladness, bluebell – gratitude, sweet-pea – goodbye.

What is a Posy Holder?

Posy holders were created to keep delicate and expensive pieces of clothing protected from water droplets. The handle of the posy holder collected the wet stems of the flowers together, preventing any water from escaping. The holder would be pierced decorated (like a doily) or crafted in decorative floral shapes with a piece of moist moss wound around the base of the bouquet stems.

The iconic ice cream cone shape of the posy holder made it easy for ladies to properly carry the flowers without having to touch the stems or get wet hands. This was especially important when dressed formally, as wet fabrics would look unseemly and quickly weigh down. In the Victorian era, posy holders peaked in popularity, with a vast range being created. More elaborate forms included a ring and chain that gave the user more security. Wearing the ring whilst using the posy holder meant that even a fumble of the hand wouldn’t lead to disaster. Others, like our example above, feature tripod legs. This allows the flowers to be left on display, or simply set down for a moment, without disrupting the arrangement or flattening the flowers themselves.

Posy Holder
gilt posy holder
Antique Posy Holder

In Victorian times, scent-soaked cotton balls were wedged into the posy holders which – in combination with the flowers themselves – kept the fragrance very strong.

By the late 19th century this fashion accessory took a turn and became a statement piece, often crafted in antique silver or metal and would inform a gentleman suiter the lady’s acceptance of courtship. The floral bouquet was pinned into the holder and then for a formal occasion would be suspended from her hand using a chain, so that she was free to dance unhindered. Some posy holders were embellished with elaborate beading, pearls, or other gemstones – like turquoise. There were also cheaper alternatives made from plate or brass, allowing everyone to get in on the romantic gesture.

Different types of posy holders were developed. The cornet and cornucopia designs – the simplest and most logically shaped – were the most common. More unique, flower shaped examples can also be found, however. There were also some pieces with built-in tripod legs, to prevent the floral arrangement from being crushed when placed on a flat surface.

posy holder vase

View our full collection of silver vases.

The author’s views are entirely their own and may not always reflect the views of AC Silver.

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