Gold pomander, 16th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
A gold pomander set with 33 cut diamonds. Pomanders were filled with mixed aromatic substances such as scented petals and herbs. It was thought that these would freshen the air and thus protect their owner from diseases such as the Plague which swept acros the world from the 1320s onwards. It was not until the 19th century that it became widely accepted that diseases were caused by microorganisms rather than miasmas, foul-smelling airs caused by decaying matter. For the rich, pomanders took the form of elaborate pieces of jewellery such as this example. The poor would have made do with improvised versions such as an orange spiked with cloves.