History of Buttons

Our Antique Button Jewelry collection is made with authentic Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco buttons.

Buttons were invented in the Bronze Age. Their earliest use in Ancient Greece, the Indus Valley and China was as ornament rather than fastener. Buttons of bone, shell and horn are some of the earliest found. Ornamental shell buttons have been found in the Indus Valley made around 2000 BC.

Functional buttons, buttons as technology, appeared in Medieval Europe along with closer fitting garments of the 13th century on. Though the hook and eye closure was in use by the 14th century in England, in the mid 19th century buttons became commonplace for both decoration and fashion. A valuable asset, buttons were moved from one dress to the next as fabric and fashions wore out.

Button designs of the early Victorian era reflected the romantic notions of the young queen’s courtship and marriage and a fascination with natural history.  Love tokens, travel charms and other symbol-laden, sentiment-infused jewelry was popular from 1830 through the end of the 19th century. Mourning conventions were just as detailed, sparking a whole fashion industry and mourning button genre.

Production methods in the 1800s popularized the use of steel picture buttons on women’s and children’s clothing from the 1860s into the Edwardian era. Victorian pictures buttons, often with multiple layers, featured detailed scenes from Classical art and European fairytales.  Dragons, mythical beasts, and Classical heroes are common themes.

Natural and romantic designs - botanical scenes, animals were common. Most buttons were made of steel, brass, mother of pearl, wood, or horn. The patterns and detail can be stunning and intricate.

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