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jewelry glossary

Antique jewelry glossary

Welcome to our extensive antique jewelry glossary with around 1,500 jewelry related entries.If you feel you are missing an explanation, feel free to let us know and we will add it.

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Pomander

Originally, a mixture of highly scented spices and perfumes made into a ball and carried in medieval times to counteract offensive odours, and also supposedly to protect against infection; later the term was applied to the receptacle, often shaped like an apple or a pear, that was worn like a pendant during the 14th-17th centuries. The receptacle was usually a perforated metal globular case, opening midway, to contain the ball, but some examples were made with four to sixteen hinged compartments that opened out like the segments of an orange, each containing a different scent whose name, or an identifying numeral, was inscribed on the separate lids (some without any pierced walls were primarily for storage of scents rather than being a true pomander).

The segmented type often had an enclosed vinaigrette as the core of the fruit. Examples in the form of a human skull were worn as a memento mori. Articles made similarly were sometimes also devotional jewelry, with inscribed names of saints and with a religious figure in the centre. Women wore pomanders suspended from a girdle or a chatelaine, and men by suspending them from a chain around the neck.

Pomanders were made of gold or other metal, decorated with enamelling and sometimes gemstones, and in France some were made of crystal or onyx. A rare specimen made in Spain, c. 1600, is in the form of a ball of gum benzoin (an aromatic resin) with gold mounts and studded with cabochon emeralds. They were sometimes called a 'scent ball' or a 'musk ball'. The German name is Bisamapfel.

From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson

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