This chic necklace showcases two rare antique inlaid horn buttons. One with an abalone bird and etched silver, and another with brass wire and abalone tulips.
Horn buttons were created by heating, molding, and then dying the horns and hooves of common farm animals like cows and pigs. It was one of the first materials ever used to make buttons, with a history stretching back to the 14th century. They remained popular until plastics were invented in the early 20th century.
Both of the buttons in this necklace showcase the talents of 19th-century button makers in Birmingham, England. These artists learned to grind and polish shells to remarkable thinness and then use stencils and acid to create identically shaped pieces.
It is strange to imagine that these two miniature works of fine art may have started with a cow's hoof.