This elegant necklace showcases two remarkable and rare antique buttons. On top is a dyed horn button inlaid with abalone pearl with silver leaves and stems.
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.
The horn button in this necklace showcases the talents of 19th-century button makers in Birmingham, England, who learned to grind and polish shells to remarkable thinness and then used stencils and acid to create the identically shaped pieces needed for their designs.
We find it miraculous that this delicate, intricate button survived for over a century and are amazed by the energy and activity that went into making it.
In this necklace, the antique horn button holds a one-of-a-kind brass filigree button set with cut steels.
Cut steel buttons were first manufactured in the 1720s and quickly rose in popularity as economical imitations of the diamond and marcasite buttons fashionable in the royal court. We lovingly refer to them as “button bling.”
In this piece from the top:
Dyed horn button inlaid with abalone pearl and silver leaves and stem, circa 1870-1890
Deluxe brass filigree button set with cut steels, circa 1880-90
Three brass stampings made today in the USA in vintage dies
One brass-plated pewter setting cast today in the USA