Antique jewellery buttons
History of the appearance of buttons is interesting and diverse. The first of their counterparts include fasteners, which appeared in the 3rd millennium BC. The excavations in the Indus Valley discovered a button with two holes for sewing. In Europe, the first find is dated 4th century BC. These were the items for bonding pieces of clothing from the ancient Greeks, who fastened with buttons their leather belts. From that time until the 1st century AD were found the samples made of gold. A medieval knight brought them to Europe from the Middle East.
Button-like objects of stone, glass, bone, ceramic, and gold have been found at archaeological sites dating as early as 2000 B.C.E., but evidence suggests that these objects were used as decoration on cloth or strung like beads. Nevertheless, they have the familiar holes through which to pass a thread, which gives them the appearance of the button currently known as a fastener.
Buttons can be divided into two types according to the way they are attached to a garment. Shank buttons have a pierced knob or shaft on the back through which passes the sewing thread. The majority of buttons are this type. The shank can be a separate piece that is attached to the button or part of the button material itself, as in a molded button. Pierced buttons have a hole from front to back of the button so that the thread used to attach the button is visible on the face.
Almost every material that has been used in the fine and decorative arts has been used historically in the production of buttons. Buttons exist in a variety of materials: metals (precious or otherwise), gemstones, ivory, horn, wood, bone, mother-of-pearl, glass, porcelain, paper, and silk. In the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, celluloid and other artificial materials have been used to imitate natural materials.
The eighteenth century is considered the Golden Age of buttons by collectors, as the variety of styles, as well as the physical size of buttons increase dramatically. Thus, luxurious buttons became an increasingly essential part of the expression of status in upper-class men’s dress. In Denis Diderot’s Encyclopédie (c. 1746) the creativity of button-makers is exalted, though for moralists costly buttons became one sign of excess in fashion. The newly fashionable paste jewels (imitation gemstones) appeared in the 1730s and were used to create some of the most highly prized buttons of the nineteenth century. Georges Frédéric Strass, a Parisian jeweler, perfected techniques of making these glass jewels.
But the really common buttons were only in the XVIII century, having received first recognition among men, and subsequently entered the female wardrobe. They were made of precious metals and were often decorated with precious stones. And if in Western nations button had a decorative role, the Slavs used it as a talisman. Buttons have become extremely collectible. The National
Button Society exists for collectors and publishes a quarterly bulletin and holds an annual meeting and show.
Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion. Vol. 1