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.

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.

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.

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.


silver posy holder
silver posy holder

Written by

Rachel O'Keefe-Coulson

Rachel O’Keefe-Coulson is also known as AC Silver’s ‘Silver Lady’. Rachel spends her days handling antique silverware and processing these items for display on the AC Silver website. Rachel will enlighten our readers with posts of a silver theme.