The Holy Lands have produced beautiful mother-of-pearl carvings since the Crusades when Richard the Lionheart brought carved crucifixes and beads back to 12th century England.
In the 15th century, Franciscan friars came to Bethlehem and helped grow the production of religious artifacts carved from mother-of-pearl and olive wood. Such religious souvenirs grew in popularity over the next three centuries.
In the 1940s, a button collector made a pilgrimage to Bethlehem and had especially beautiful mother-of-pearl buttons carved by a small family workshop. These large and intricate buttons were a huge hit with collectors in America and England, and their production continued into the 1970s. We treasure the handful of them we have in our button museum.
As far as we knew, none of these gorgeous buttons had been made for 50 years. So imagine our delight when we received an email last year from a small family workshop in Bethlehem that had resumed its production!
Delight turned into amazement when we received our first samples and saw that these buttons were every bit as detailed and lovely as the originals.
This particular button displays a many-petalled daisy surrounded by a lacy, open-work background. We’ve set it in an antiqued brass stamping made in the USA in vintage dies, and hung it from a necklace that can be worn long at 34”, or doubled up and worn short at 17”.
In this piece:
Mother-of-pearl button hand-carved in a small family workshop in Bethlehem, Palestine
Brass-plated pewter ring and toggle cast today in the USA