We’ve had many posy holders come through the doors here at Plymouth Auction Rooms and they all come in various sizes and qualities. One thing we do know is they always attract interest. So, what exactly is a posy holder and where did they originate?
What is a Posy?
At its core, a posy (also known as a nosegay) is a small bunch of flowers. In Victorian times, sometimes a posy was referred to as a tussie-mussie, with particular flowers conveying a specific message. For example, crocus showed gladness, bluebell, gratitude and sweetpea a goodbye.
Why Were Posies Held?
In earlier times, posies were superstitiously held to ward off diseases such as the plague. They were also used to mask the unpleasant smells in the streets.
Later, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, they were romanticised as a fashion accessory for young ladies to hold the flowers, usually brought by courting gentlemen.
Introducing the Posy Holder
Posy holders were created to keep delicate and expensive pieces of clothing protected from water. The handle of the posy holder collected the wet stems of the flowers together, preventing any water from dripping down. The holder would be pierced and decorated, or crafted in decorative floral shapes with a piece of moist moss wound around the base of the bouquet stems.
The ‘cone’ shape of the holder made it easier for ladies to carry their flowers, without having wet hands. This was especially important when dressed formally, as fabrics would get ruined or weighed down with the weight of the water.
Posy Holder Designs
In the Victorian era, posy holders became increasingly popular. The simplest shapes – cornet and cornucopia designs – were the most common. More elaborate forms included a ring and chain that gave the holder more security. Others even featured tripod legs that allowed the flowers to be set down for a moment without flattening the arrangement.
Posy Holders at Auction
We’ve had a wide range of posy holders come into the auction rooms over the years. Most recently, in our Antiques & Collectables Auction in December, we sold a pair of posy holders for almost double the initial estimate! Delicately beautiful silver and mother-of-pearl holders sold for £340 plus fees, much to the delight of the owner.