I love buttons, and love learning about all the different options, designs and uses. Most buttons are collectibles and I strive to retain the value in all the buttons used in my designs!! I never cut off a shank and put glue on the buttons. All of the ones used in my designs are wire wrapped preserving all the parts of a button.
So here is a little history of how buttons have evolved and who used them. I hope you enjoy reading the history of buttons and can appreciate them.
1200 AD- As clothing and fabric evolved pins were no longer the best option, and buttons were used as fasteners. The word "Button" first appears in the French language as bouton, for bud or bouten to push.
1250 AD- The Button Makers Guild is formed. The Guild developed elaborate, expensive buttons that only the wealthy could buy. There were actually laws passed to prevent the common person from owning any button!
1300's thru 1400's- Buttons continue to grow in popularity as they are used more and more. Many of the clothing worn during this time were covered in buttons. It is during this time that a new profession developed...the professional dresser!
1500's-A French king in this century ordered 13,400 Gold buttons made for a special outfit for his meeting with an English king. To his surprise the English king was equally heavy with buttons! Also the Elizabethan era brought cloth covered buttons.
1600's-We actually find diamond buttons on a suit designed for the First Duke of Buckingham! Silk, ceramic and silver buttons were seen during this time. In the 17th century, French tailors began making thread buttons for military uniforms. These were simple little balls of thread that. In fact, these thread buttons were considered an insult to all buttons and many tried to get laws passed to prevent them from being used again. Anyone caught using or making these were fined penalties!
1700's- Embroidered buttons developed. Wooden molds were carved and the embroidered material was stretched and crisscross stitched in the back to secure it. Towards the end of this century buttons got bigger and bigger. In addition, steel buttons began their use for men's clothing.
1800's-1900's In the year 1802 Abel Porter established a company in the Northeastern United States that began making metal buttons. He saw an opportunity for big business as the imported ones were scarce and expensive. There were also challenges with the types of metals used but when Porter created them he used brass loops cast in the back of the button, and solved those previous problems. This company became the famous Scovill Manufacturing Co. whose name we still see on the backs of many old buttons today.
The most popular button of the 19th Century was the black glass button. These were made for the masses in replication of Queen Victoria's fashioning of black jet buttons. These were also referred to as mourning buttons, following the death of Prince Albert.
These Victorian Glass Buttons are a favorite of many Button Collectors today. Beautiful ocean mother of pearl buttons were also made in the 18th and 19th century. They were dyed, engraved and embellished with metals and sometimes even jewels. These buttons were made in Germany, France and Great Britain but the shells they were made from came from Japan, Austria, Central America and even Egypt. The most expensive shell is the white massacar from the East Indies.
Modern Day Button Making - By the turn of the 20th Century, picture and novelty buttons were very much the fashion. Picturesque buttons for men's waistcoats were very popular. Animals and hunting scenes were vastly produced for this purpose. Many collectors adore them. With the introduction of plastics, buttons weren't quite so precious. However, since the arrival of the sewing machine and patterns for the thrifty dressmaker, they provided the finishing touches while dressing on a budget. Magnificent artisan glass buttons can be found at fine craft shops and craft shows today. Torch work or lamp work is used to create unique and often, one of a kind, paperweight buttons. My favorites to work with, as you can see by the jewelry I make, are carved Mother of Pearl Buttons. I find the most colorful shells to be abalone with their magnificent striking colors. Pearl buttons, both carved and etched, come from black Tahitian shells, cowries, helmet shells, pinna shells and conches.
Some Resources: National Button Society
The HISTORY OF Czech Glass buttons!!
The Czech Glass and Mother of pearl buttons are some of my favorites.
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New Button Designs coming soon!!!!