Pomander balls, a fragrant ball made of perfume, or the case used to hold such balls, originated in 13th century France, probably as a product of the French perfume industry, according to Larsdatter.com. The word "pomander" comes from the French "pomme d'ambre," which translates roughly to "amber apple." "Amber" in this case refers to the waxy perfume base ambergris, often used as a pomander ingredient.
Pomanders were often hung around the neck or from a girdle. The perfume itself was generally kept inside a perforated gold or silver case, often one with multiple compartments for carrying both pomanders and religious keepsakes. The scent of a pomander ball was not just pleasant; good smells were reputed to ward off disease and bad luck. In some cases, a sachet of fragrant herbs was also referred to as a pomander.
In later times, pomanders became something used but not necessarily worn. Old pomander balls were filled with fragrances that warded off moths and were put in closets and drawers both to repel pests and to keep clothing fresh. A new tradition arose of studding fresh oranges with cloves, especially around Christmas; the fragrant result was called an orange pomander. Today, pomander balls made of flowers are often used at weddings, and mistletoe-and-evergreen pomanders, also called kissing balls, are a common Christmas decoration.