Stripped down to the basics 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
Such a posy would be held within a small holder in the form of a vase, traditionally crafted in silver or other precious metals. 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 the early 19th century the posy holder was merely an accessory for ladies to carry or wear as a brooch, the abundance of sweet fragrant flowers would aid the disguise of unpleasant smells of the street. Those who were superstitious would carry the posy holders with nosegays to warn off disease and infection from the unsanitary surroundings.
By the late 19th century this fashion accessory took a turn and became a statement piece to inform 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.
Back to the Beginning
The posy holder displayed above (ref A4412) is the item which started this whole query. When I quizzed Mr Campbell, who has many, many years’ experience handling all manner of silver items, on the gauge and price of the piece, he eagerly explained that due to its small size he couldn’t refer to our posy holder as “magnificent”, but what he could say was “It is truly is the finest example of its type you could hope to acquire”. High praise indeed for such an enigmatic piece!
Rachel O'Keefe-Coulson – Multimedia Manager
Rachel O'Keefe is our 'silver lady' spending her days handling silverware and processing these items for the AC Silver website. Amazingly, Rachel’s favourite items of silverware are spoons, for which she has developed a true affinity.