Find of the Month: Early 19th Century Gilt Buttons
October 25, 2016
My new favorite antique store, Maine Barn and Attic Antiques, has oodles of raw, dusty crusty buttons for 10¢ to $2 each, depending on the bin you dig them out of. Usually I paw through the enormous 10¢ button bin, but this past weekend, I ventured over to the smaller more expensive bins (50¢ each. Living the high life!) and was excited to find what I thoughts were 18th century buttons:
All of them are smooth and plain except for this gaudy little guy.
They are very weighty! These would definitely have to be attached using the taped method used on men’s coats during the 18th and early 19th century. Taped buttons are attached to the coat by making an eyelet where the button sits, poking the shank through to the back of the garment, and threading a narrow ribbon or woven tape through the shanks to hold them down. American Duchess has an awesome guide for this handy technique here.
This is the best illustrated guide to the technique ever! Thanks, Lauren!
Attching buttons that way makes sure they stay flat, flush and firm instead of flopping around. That’s how all those enormous, ornate buttons you see on 18th century coats stay so neatly in place despite being so heavy!
All of them have detailed stamps on the back with interesting sayings like “Orange Colour” and “Treble Gilt London.”
In reality, they are not quite as old as I first believed. Research led me to lots of metal detecting and mudlarking websites where I learned that these buttons are commonly dug up across the English and New England countryside. My buttons date from about 1810 to 1840. The English discovered a process for gilding buttons in the late 18th century and by the 19th century the manufacture of gilded buttons was in full swing. For a more detailed account, I’ll direct you to this short, well-written PDF on the subject.
I tried to do a bit more detailed research on the individual button back stamps, but haven’t delved too deep yet (too busy prepping for Georgian Picnic!). Still, I took pictures of each button back so if anyone else finds one, we can compare notes. :)
“B & BURNHAM – TREBLE GILT” with a chain design around the shank
“—-GE (Probably “ORANGE”) COLOUR” with dotted borders
This is the back of the smaller engraved button.
“TREBLE GILT – STAND (D) COLOUR” with dotted borders
“STAND (D) TREBLE GILT – LONDON) with stamped sun design around shank.
“WARRENTED – FINE GOLD SURFACE” with dots and sunburst/starburst design around the shank
“BEST QUALITY” with eagle
I think this button may be later, closer to 1850-1860, judging by the font and styling. It is also the thinnest and lightest of the bunch.
“LONDON GILT” with a laurel/leaf design and two rings of dots around the shank
Other Find of the Month posts you might like: