Find of the Month: Early 19th Century Gilt Buttons

October 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:

img_0696 img_0697

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!


They have large, round “omega” style shanks.
Button Shanks Guide by Button Country
Guide to dating buttons by shank style: DAACS Cataloging Manual for Buttons

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:

Find of the Month: English Silver-Gilt Button

Find of the Month: Stuart Crystal Breeches Button

6 thoughts on “Find of the Month: Early 19th Century Gilt Buttons

  1. Well hey there! What a treasure trove — and I never thought of looking at the backsides of my rusty old buttons to see if they had an omega loop, or anything to identify them. I just found a few myself, singletons, alas! I always assumed they omega loop got that way because it got squished somewhere…
    Nancy N

  2. You downplay these a lot. In my opinion, you definitely found treasure! I also like to dig for antique or antique-looking buttons to use on my costumes. And I learned a little bit more than I did before on how these were attached.

    1. They are neat little bobs–certainly something new to my world. I may have become a bit spoiled by Maine Barn and Attic. Now I expect to find treasures all the time!

  3. You have a very interesting site. I am currently doing an “Artifact Study” on these Omega shank plain-faced flat gilt buttons. These types of marked buttons are found in the US in any areas that were settled from about 1800 onwards, millions they were imported into the US during this time and most of them exist in the ground around old homesteads or in old sewing baskets and boxes in the attic. I can provide good dating for the B. & Burnham (Benedict & Burnham) button, this is a well known Company organized in Waterbury Ct,, they operated under this name from 1834-1843. The other “Quality Marked’ buttons are harder to pin down as these marks and variants of the marks were used from about 1792-1850 on plain faced flat buttons. From the construction of these I would assign a date range on the other buttons of 1820-1830. The thinner button is actually older than the rest, I found that same “Best” button with the Eagle on the back in close company with a War of 1812 Artillery button and an 1817 US Large Cent in a farm field in North Carolina. I belive it was made in england for the US market dates to just after the War of 1812. Keep on look for those buttons thye are very cheap for the stories they tell.

    Bob Milburn

  4. Thank you for publishing this blog! I collect military buttons and I regularly buy large lots of buttons to get a few I want. However, I regularly research the rest of the buttons I get and recently I received a nice flat faced guilt button marked “Their Colour Will Stand” and I ran across this post. I ended up reading several of your posts I found interesting! I also work for a local historical society in Ohio. I am supposed to curate a Victorian clothing exhibit so I will definitely be keeping an eye on your work! Thanks again!

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