It is not often that something you could have bought in Wal Mart can end up making you money on ebay.

Vintage buttons can be big sellers on ebay and may make you some extra money to help cope with Black Friday blues.  Searching yard sales and garage sales can net you big money if you know what to look for.

Bakelite was made mostly in buttons, very little was made into vintage costume jewellery. Carved glass, like those shown above and below are tiny works of art worth grabbing at your next yard sale.

Buttons are much more than just a way to close clothes.  Sometimes they are tiny works of art, especially when you have a look through grans button box. I especially love this Bohemian Czech glass button in the shape of a fly.

Older people tend to cut off buttons from a discarded garment and keep them in a ‘button box’.  The button above is an old rhinestone button from Bohemia and was found on a flea market treasure hunt.  Buckles are also highly sought after, especially in the Art Deco style and made from mother of pearl or bakelite.


The history behind buttons – and the type of materials used – is truly fascinating.  It is worth remembering that until the 1880’s all buttons were cut and shaped by human hand, no matter what the material.  Antique and vintage buttons are often overlooked and yet can be worth money.

Glass buttons on top of metal (usually brass) shanks, were made in a part of Bohemia called the Iser Mountains – since the 1700’s.  The industrious and innovative Bohemians started making lamp worked glass buttons during the1830’s  (some sources would say even earlier).

With little or no costume jewellery available; for the masses, buttons were often the nearest thing to costume jewellery that most people could afford during the 1800’s. Below is a cut steel button made in England around 1800.

It was not until the late 1820’s when the skill of joining the brass shank to the glass/composition top was perfected, that button production became a significant contributor to the economy of Bohemia.

My sources say that the manufacturer Josef Scheibler developed glass (properly called composition as it contained more than just glass), in the 1820’s.  This specific composition allowed the metal and glass mix to bond well without the worry of the glass cracking off the metal base, once it cooled.

Documents tells us that the Jackel company was the first manufacturer in Gablonz to market this type of button on a large scale, but that it was not until 1825. These buttons below are called ‘Dorset Buttons’ being made in Dorset in SW England and are highly collected today.

The button industry exploded around 1860 when fashions insisted that buttons were an important part of a garments style and demand increased significantly.  But still this was just before modern plastics were invented, so the likes of wood (as seen in the half an Austrian hat button in the image below right) and mother of pearl or shell (as shown in the middle of the image below) were popult.

With this expansion, production of buttons in this area was concentrated in three main places – Wiesenthal, Gablonz and Morchenstern.  But still the mainstay of buttons were natural materials.  These buttons below are from Austria and were made by hand from the horn of the Red Deer which is native to the dense forests in Bohemia and Austria.

With demand still increasing, huge technical changes were implemented during the 1870’s.  Buttons soon appeared with loop shanks and metal back plates allowing a more secure bond between metal and glass.

From around 1870 press moulded buttons could be made without the requirement for extra cutting and polishing because the because of a general improvement in the machinery used, and more exact moulds were available.  Buttons were often ‘fire polished’ in the same way as beads.

Up until this time (1870) the majority of glass buttons made were black. After this time fashion demanded the same type of button but in  other colours of glass.  This stimulated the industry to provide a wider range of colourful glass buttons.

Fashion caused a very fickle and inconsistent trade, the demand for different types of buttons was rarely constant.  There were periods when demand was consistently high, (during 1865-1895) and at this time four new factories producing buttons were built.

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