At Grandmother’s Buttons, we release pieces we call “limited-editions” every month and they sell out fast, often within minutes of us posting them online. The speed at which they sell-out frustrates some of our newsletter subscribers who feel a wee bit exasperated that by the time they open their email notification, everything is sold out. As our limited editions are increasing in popularity, more people are feeling left out. So we think this is the perfect time to explain all the ins and outs of our limited edition jewelry lines.
First, we want to clarify that the name ‘limited edition’ might be misleading. People often think of limited editions as something that is available for a restricted period of time (like the McRib sandwich) or art pieces produced in numbered small batches that may include a hundred or more pieces. Neither of these definitions applies to Grandmother’s Buttons limited-edition releases.
At Grandmother’s Buttons, we have a unique approach to jewelry design that also grounds the production of our limited-editions. Most jewelers start with an idea and then procure the elements, like gems or stones, they need to execute their vision. We do the opposite. We start with the hunt.
The buttons we have collected so far for the future release. You can see that we only have one of most buttons.
We scour the forgotten corners of this earth for antique buttons and vintage glass. We climb into grimy New York City lofts and bargain with flea market dealers. We spend hours in dusty warehouses, sorting through long-forgotten attics, and rummaging through thrift store shelves. Sometimes we find other irresistibly beautiful pieces like antique shoe buckles or tie bars.
We feature only the best of the best of these finds in our limited-edition jewelry lines. In other words, only the rarest, most beautiful and valuable items in our collection are used in our limited-edition designs.
Wherever the buttons come from, the one truism for all of them is there aren’t very many of them. Usually, there is only one. Sometimes we find a special set of buttons, and therefore can produce multiples, but even then, the most we can make is two to six pieces. So our limited-edition designs are indeed genuinely limited in the true sense of that word. In fact, chances are your limited edition purchase will be the only one of its kind in the world.
Examples of the few duplicates we have found for this upcoming collection, showing how we will use them to make only as many necklaces as we have buttons in any particular design.
Every limited edition we produce has a theme. These generally fall into two categories - those based on what is pictured on the buttons (like butterflies, dragons, thistles, or flowers) or those based on the materials or processes from which the buttons are made (like cut steel or porcelain).
Like with most creative pursuits, the inspiration for our limited edition themes comes from everywhere. We pick themes based on what we love and what we find out in the world. Sometimes we’re even inspired by popular culture. In fact, two of our most successful limited-edition releases were based on our favorite television shows - Game of Thrones and Outlander.
Dragons were a popular motif for women’s clothing buttons between 1880 and 1900 and we found a few choice pieces that we used for a dragon-themed limited-edition line we released to celebrate the last episode of Game of Thrones.
A gorgeous collection of Scottish thistle buttons and buckles were the basis of a limited edition line we released to mark the premiere of the fifth season of Outlander. We had a lot of fun combining antique thistle buttons with those depicting castles and eighteenth-century couples that we thought resembled the show’s settings and main characters Jamie and Claire.
We map out potential themes for our limited editions up to a year in advance and then we go hunting for exceptional buttons, buckles, or beads that fit. Or sometimes we serendipitously find something special and create a theme to accommodate it. We also have many extraordinary buttons in our studio collection (some of which we’ve owned for decades) patiently waiting for a limited-edition design inspiration to strike us.
Once we’ve settled on the theme we gather the buttons we plan to use and spread them out on the big center table in our studio. Then, over a period of weeks, our designers pick out one button at a time, or a set of matching buttons and transform them into special necklaces, bracelets or earrings. Corda Walker’s specialty is to combine a handful of colorful buttons made of enamel, glass, or porcelain, with other antique bits and bobs to create her glorious, one-of-a-kind linked bracelets.
It takes weeks, or sometimes even months, to finish designing and manufacturing a limited-edition line. When done we photograph and write a history tag for each piece, post them on our website, and notify our newsletter subscribers when the sale will be live. The best pieces sell out within minutes and the entire collection is usually gone within an hour.
Creating limited-edition jewelry pieces is time-consuming and labor-intensive but we love it. It’s our creative outlet and a time for us to innovate. Our founder Susan Davis often pours over books featuring complex antique jewelry for design ideas. We joyfully lavish our limited-edition pieces with objects and techniques that we cannot feasibly use in our day to day designs, including rare and valuable buttons, hand-wrapped beads, or gold or sterling plated chains.
Antique buttons are rarely found in sets or even pairs, so for our production lines, the antique buttons you see on our website product pages will differ from those in the jewelry you receive. However, with our limited edition pieces, you always get the exact button or buckle pictured.
Our limited-edition lines enable us to share our finest, most extraordinary, beautiful, and rare treasures with you. And Susan, our industrious founder, is a recovering English major with an academic streak who loves researching the history of these special buttons and using our limited edition collections to find them a new home with your family.