A pomander is essentially a perfumed ball of some kind which is used to scent clothes and linen and disguise unpleasant odours. Pomanders were an extremely popular accessory during the Tudor and Elizabethan periods – they could be carried, held to the nose, attached to belts, girdles, clothing and jewellery, or hung in rooms. It was also believed that the aromatic ingredients of the pomander could help to ward off infectious diseases and give the wearer immunity to illness. A pomander could come in a variety of forms, for example: an orange or apple studded with cloves and rolled in spices; a lozenge or aromatic ball of substances like resin, gum, wax or dirt mixed with musk, rose petals, herbs and spices; and a mixture of petals, herbs and spices in a perforated case or bag.
The English word ‘pomander’ comes from the French pomme d’ambre, meaning ‘apple of amber’ or ‘ball of ambergris’ and it was used in reference either to the scented ball itself or to the perforated gold or silver case which was often used to contain it. Queen Elizabeth I herself is said to have carried a pomander scented with Damask Rose, Benzoin and Ambergris.
Pomanders still have their place in the British home at Christmas as some people still make clove studded oranges to adorn and perfume their homes. Try our fun pomander tutorial below to make your very own Tudor style pomander for Christmas.