A
Aluminum Stencil Button ALUMINUM STENCIL -- A term used for an almost flat aluminum button having several coats of paint, enamel or lacquer, showing pattern similar to those found on China Stencils.
Arita Button ARITA -- A type of Japanese porcelain, often with colorful glazes. The finish generally has a dark color satin gloss rather than a shiny glaze.
Artid button - front & back
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ARTID -- Usually white and one other color, such as black or red. Backmarked with "Artid" and "Made in England" in raised letters. Most are small and have a color border.
Aurora Button AURORA -- Buttons with a high degree of iridescent luster showing two or more colors when moved or tilted from side to side.
AUSTRIAN TINIES -- A 2-piece metal button, never more than 1/2 inch in diameter, with a metal loop shank and, usually, a Japanned back which is frequently cup-shaped. The metal trim is usually folded over the back. The center designs may be pearl, ivoroid, velvet, etc. These buttons were made between approximately 1885 and 1914.
 
B
BACK MARKS -- 
BAKELITE -- An early plastic with both cast phenolic and molded resin, made from the 1920s to the 1950s. Bakelite buttons may be formed or cut, and can have escutcheons or inlays.
Basse-Taille Button BASSE-TAILLE -- Transparent enamel applied over a metal base that has been chased, engraved or turned, so the design in the metal is visible.
BIRD CAGE --
BIRD'S EGG -- Glass buttons that have a speckled overlay.
BLACK GLASS -- Glass buttons that appear black to the naked eye when placed upside down on white paper.  Includes MOONGLOWs, OVERLAYs, TILEs, and LUSTERs.
BLOWN GLASS -- Buttons made from fragile, hollow "bubbles", usually self-shanked.
BONE --
BUBBLE TOP -- A solid sheet of celluloid drawn over the button frame, with a discernible air space under the sheet.  The button may be made entirely of celluloid, or may have a metal, paper or other material back.
Burwood Button BURWOOD -- Made of molded processed wood pulp without back marks.
 
C
CAEN -- Named after a city in northern France famous for horn buttons. If the button has the Caen backmark it is definitely horn. Counts as French backmark.
CALICO -- A china button decorated with a repeating design, typically of a floral or geometric nature, over the entire surface of the button.
CAMEO -- A raised design in high relief.  See also EMBOSSED.
CANDY STRIP -- Glass buttons with clearly defined stripes of different colored glass which run through the body of the button, front to back.
CASEIN -- Early plastic made from milk that was produced around the turn of the century.
   CATALIN -- A brand name for BAKELITE and was produced in the 1950s.
CATGUT -- Made by putting a design of metal over a piece of wood. Catgut was wrapped around the wood, and a seamstress would sew the buttons to the jacket by sewing under the crossed piece of catgut. Made in the 18th Century, usually military.
Celluloid Button CELLULOID -- Celluloid was the first important synthetic plastic and was widely used as a substitute for more expensive substances, such as ivory, amber, horn, and tortoiseshell.  Includes IVOROID, ONE-PIECE THIRTIES, and SHEETS
Ceramic Button CERAMIC -- Ceramic is a general descriptive term that includes a wide range of natural clay materials.  Includes EARTHENWARE, PORCELAIN, and STONEWARE.
CHAMPLEVÉ -- Enamel buttons where the metal base is grooved or hollowed out, with a die or stamp, to accept the enamel.  The surface designs combine metal with enamel.

CLEAR COLORLESS GLASS -- The body is clear (transparent) and colorless.  Button may have a metal back, overlay, decorative finish and/or embellishment.
CLOISONNÉ -- Enamel buttons where thin metal bands or wires of uniform thickness are placed onto the metal surface to create separate compartments (cloisons), which are filled with enamel, fired and polished.

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COLONIAL PEARLS -- Shell buttons from the American colonial period, which are characterized by thick mother of pearl, sometimes highly designed, and with a very heavy pin shank in the center.

COLORED GLASS -- Buttons consisting of one or more chromatic colors.  The color is determined by the color of the shank (self-shanks) or the glass to which the shank is attached (cemented or metal shanks).  See also GOLDSTONE, TRANSPARENT GLASS, and WHITE GLASS.  Includes BLOWN, CORONETS, CRACKLE, DESIGN IN GLASS, FLASHED, FOIL EMBEDDED, FUSED, IMPRESSION INLAY, INTERMIXED, CANDY STRIPE, LAMPWORK, MOONGLOW, ENCRUSTED FINISH, SALT FINISH, SHEATH FINISH, PAPERWEIGHT, and SATIN FINISH.
CORALENE -- Tiny glass beads applied to the surface, primarily glass, but also ceramics, plastics, etc. This technique has been used since the 1880s.

CORONETS -- Buttons made from a base and top, each molded separately; usually of different colors.

CRACKLE -- Buttons made from glass which is deliberately cooled quickly to create an internal design of cracks or fractures.
CRAPE STONE -- The design has an imitation crape fabric appearance, in an all over design of lines or ridges, usually wavy. The designs are cut, not molded, and have very fine hair-like crosslines decorate the high ridges, further identifying this material. Resembling black glass, crape-stones are actually onyx. Used in the 1800's to make mourning buttons.
Cricket Cage Button CRICKET CAGE --
Cut Steels Button CUT STEELS -- Also known as RIVETED STEELS
 
D

DAGUERREOTYPE -- One of the earliest (1839) types of photograph in which the image is exposed directly onto a mirror-polished surface of silver bearing a coating of silver halide particles deposited by iodine vapor. The daguerreotype is a direct positive image making process with no "negative" original. They were made until 1851 when other methods were used.
Damascene Button DAMASCENE -- Inlay of different metals onto one another producing intricate patterns similar to niello. Typically, gold or silver inlaid on steel, lacquered, baked and polished with charcoal and finished with engraving. These buttons have been made the same way in the same town in Japan for over 1000 years.
Deccan Button - front & back
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DECCAN --
DECOUPAGE -- Art produced by decorating a surface with cutouts and then coating it with several layers of varnish or lacquer.

DESIGN IN GLASS (DIGS) -- A smooth, ground or tumbled button with a subtle design emanating from its surface.  A slight impression of the design may be felt on the surface due to irregularities in tumbling or grinding.  The design cannot be seen from the back of the button.
Design Under Glass Button DESIGN UNDER GLASS (DUG) --
DIMINUTIVE -- From the tiniest button up to 3/8 inch.
DRUM -- Drum buttons are so called because the straight, high sides between the front and back give the button the overall appearance of a drum. Many are pad backs, though some have loop shanks.
 
E
Earthenware button - front & back
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EARTHENWARE -- Porous clay that is fired at relatively low temperatures.  Earthenware buttons may be glazed and/or unglazed, and the clay may be white, cream, buff, yellow, or brown to dark red (terra-cotta).  See SATSUMA, RUSKIN, BARUM, NORWALK, DELFT, and ZIA.

EGLOMISE -- A type of reverse painting on glass. Gold was laid on the reverse side of the glass piece, and the design cut out of the gold. Then the whole back of the glass piece was covered with black.
Emaux Peints Button ÉMAUX PEINTS -- Enamel is applied to the surface of the button to form a base upon which the design is painted, and then fired.
Embedded Shank Button EMBEDDED SHANK --

EMBOSSED -- A raised design in low relief.  See also CAMEO.
En Grisaille Button EN GRISAILLE -- Multiple layers of white enamel applied to a base of dark enamel.  As coats are added and fired, gray tones are created that act as shadows and give a three dimensional effect.
Enamel Button ENAMEL -- A decorative finish of glass fired onto metal. Includes  BASSE-TAILLE, CHAMPLEVÉ, CLOISONNÉ, ÉMAUX PEINTS, EN GRISAILLE, ENAMEL ENCRUSTATIONS, FOIL ENCLOSURES, GIN BARI, LIMOGE, PAILLONS, PIERRERIES, and PLIQUE-á-JOUR.

ENCRUSTED FINISH -- Glass buttons which have a granular or globular surface coating applied and fired after the button is made.
Escutcheon Button
ESCUTCHEON -- A term used to describe a metal ornament applied to the button and attached, usually, with one or two pins going through the button and bent down on the back. These metal designs, in shapes as varied as stars, heads, animals or even complete scenes were attached to virtually all button materials including wood, shell, all the plastics, bone, vegetable ivory, glass, metal or composition.
 
F
Fabric Button
FABRICS -- Any material of animal, vegetable, or mineral origin that is woven or felted.

FACE CENTER -- A metal back, faced or centered with a flat sheet of celluloid, and rimmed by a plain or fancy metal border.
FIMO -- See Polymer Clay.

FLATS -- Buttons having a perforated celluloid top backed by a flat piece of fabric, paper, celluloid, metal or foil.See PERFORATE

FLASHED -- Buttons made from transparent colored or clear glass canes with additional color(s) either on one side of the cane's surface or all around it so color may appear on the back, front, or both, or on the inside of the button.
Foil Embedded Button FOIL EMBEDDED -- Any glass button with foil embedded under the surface.  See also POPPERs.

FOIL ENCLOSURES -- Pieces of metallic foil are laid in place and covered by transparent enamel.
Fop Button
FOPS -- Buttons with males or females depicting the excesses of French aristocratic costumes around the end of the 18'h Century.

FOUR-WAY METAL SHANK -- A hollow metal cube with four openings, embedded into the button.

FUSED -- Buttons made of two or more layers of prefabricated glass cut out and put together in various artistic arrangements with heat.  Fused Glass buttons usually have glued on shanks.
 
G
GALALITH -- Another name for CASIEN
Galena Button GALENA --
Gin-Bari Button GIN-BARI -- A style of Japanese cloisonnÉ which uses lightly tinted clear enamel over a very thin sheet of detailed silver.
Gingham Button GINGHAM -- china buttons decorated with a surface design imitating boldly patterned fabric.
Golden Age button - front & back
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GOLDEN AGE -- A collector's term for gilt or plated pictorial, non-pictorial and plain faced buttons of American manufacture during the period from 1820 to 1850.

GOLDSTONE -- Glass buttons consisting of copper colored metallic particles embedded in the glass.
GOOFIES -- Term coined by Dorothy Foster Brown for realistics. "The more frivolous types of modern buttons, that word "Goofy" popped into my head and it seemed to fill the bill. The buttons are gay, colorful, irresponsible, and amusing, the antithesis of all things serious or dull."
 
H
HABITAT -- Buttons containing insects, flowers, seaweed, shells, etc., preserved to create scenes or designs.
HORN -- Horn buttons were generally made from a soupy mixture (slurry) of hooves, horns, and water. The mixture was poured into molds, then allowed to harden. Sometimes a dye was added, with black and red being the most common colors. They may have pickmarks or backmarks. These are "molded" or "pressed horn" though there were buttons made from carving horn or antlers, and these are referred to as "carved horn."
 
I
Imitation Fabric Button IMITATION FABRIC -- Molded designs imitating fabric, needlework, lace, cording, beading, etc.

IMPRESSION INLAY -- Glass buttons with metal embellishments (such as rings, bracelets, small balls, realistic shapes, etc.) pressed into the glass while in a softened state.
Incised Button INCISED -- Thin shallow line designs which look as if they were drawn with a pointed tool.
Inlay Button INLAY -- Metal embellishment pressed into the button while in a softened state. Inlay materials include pearl, pearl chips, yellow and white metal shapes or cut outs, ivory, tinsel and sharkskin pellets.

INTAGLIO -- Buttons where the entire design is in clear relief below the surface.  This is the reverse of CAMEO.

INTERMIXED -- Buttons made of opaque, translucent or transparent multi-colored glass, with more than one color visible on the button back.
Ivoriod Button IVOROID -- Sheet celluloid which is pressed, tinted and rubbed down to imitate carved ivory.  They were then given a wash of black to bring out the details. Some have cut out designs attached in places to a celluloid ring hidden by a metal rim.  Nearly all ivoroids have metal rims and backs.
 
J
Japanned Button JAPANNED -- A heavy black paint, almost like enamel, usually applied to the back, though sometimes used as a background of buttons.
JASPERWARE --
 
K
KALEIDOSCOPE -- Buttons made from a molded transparent glass dome with a flat back covering an applied pattern of two or more colors, affixed to a metal plate almost as large as the base of the dome.
Key Shank KEY SHANKS --
KUTANI --
 
L
Lacy Button
LACY -- Delicate molded surface designs, often with fine stippling.

LAMPWORK -- Buttons made from glass worked over an open flame, usually with a torch.  These buttons are often realistics with self-shanks.
LIMOGES -- See ENAMEL
Livery button - front & back
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LIVERY -- Typically depicting heraldic designs of the family, livery buttons were worn on uniforms (livery) of servants and only occasionally by the owner. Major types include achievements, and crests; there are also badges, initials and monograms.
LOOP SHANK --
Luster Button
LUSTERs -- Metallic lusters or combinations of lusters, partially or fully covering the surface of a button.
 
M

MEASLES -- The name comes from the ubiquitous red dots on ill children. Competitors who enter a tray with buttons not appropriate to the entry get a little dot on the plastic cover sheet. One dot, or measle, is enough to disqualify an entire tray from competition.
Button Measures
NBS Flat measure
MEASURE -- A tool used by button collectors to determine sizes for competition. There are two types, the Linley measure, and the NBS flat measure.
MODERN --
Moonglow Button MOONGLOW -- Colors other than black (often striped) appear in the glass between the base and the clear glass top layer.  The back and/or self shank appears black when placed against white paper.
 
N
NETSUKE --
 
O

ONE-PIECE THIRTIES -- Wafers with embossed or pressed designs that are often pictorial, usually depicting sports, animals, transportation, etc., with a field surrounding the design which is either textured or smooth.  One-piece thirties may be two-hole sew-through, or have an applied celluloid shank.

OVERLAYs -- Clear an/or colored glass fused to the surface of a black glass body.

OUTLINE -- See INCISED.
 
P

PAD BACK -- A button back, where a pad of canvas-like cloth protrudes through a center hole in a metal back.

PAILLONS -- Enamel buttons with small, precisely cut and shaped, foil enclosures.  The enclosures often take the shape of realistics.
Paperback button - front & back
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PAPER BACK -- A clear glass button with a piece of paper glued onto the back, without a metal back for protection.
PAPERWEIGHT -- Buttons made by fusing together a set-up and a transparent cap, or crown.  The set-up is independently made and decorative in nature.  The base determines the color of the button.
PARIS BACK --
PASTE -- Paste (or "strass") is a heavily leaded glass approximating a true gem in luster and brilliancy. A German named Strass perfected a formula for paste that was so admired that his name became the trade name for all fine paste.

PIERRERIES -- Tiny foil cups filled with enamel to resemble sparking jewels.
Preforate Button
PERFORATE -- A perforated celluloid top that fits over protruding design piece(s) of metal, glass, celluloid, etc. (Stick-ups); or a perforated celluloid top backed by a flat piece of fabric, paper, celluloid, metal or foil (Flats).
PHENOLIC PLASTIC -- A thermoset synthetic polymer. Buttons look and feel hard and dense. The hot needle test gives a formaldehyde or Lysol smell. Most common brand names are Bakelite and Catalin.
PINSHANK --
PLIQUE-á-JOUR -- A design made of soldered wires or openwork metal, filled with transparent, translucent or opaque enamel that is not backed by metal, resembling stained glass.
Polymer Clay Button POLYMER CLAY -- Workable colorful medium that comes in many colors for sculpting, molding and cane making. It stays soft almost indefinitely until baked to permanent hardness in a home oven making it a very popular with artisans and crafters. Often used for buttons, both in mass production and by studio button makers. Most common brand names include Fimo and Sculpey.
     POPPER --
Porcelain button - front & back
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PORCELAIN -- A hard, white, translucent ceramic made by firing a pure clay and then glazing it with variously colored fusible materials; china.  Includes all white, nonporous, translucent hard paste and opaque soft paste ceramics.  See ARITA, KUTANI, and MEISSEN.
Precision Inlay Button PRECISION INLAY -- Feeling almost seamless, the inserted material either fits precisely or is ground down level with the button surface. Both base and insertion material(s) are in a solid state when joined. The base material is either molded or cut to accommodate the inlaid piece(s).
 
Q
 
R
REALISTICS -- A button in the actual shape of an item. It can be just the outline, or the surface can make it a real 3-dimensional realistic. A realistic can be made of any material, can be of any age, and can be a studio button or mass produced.
Rebus Button REBUS -- Rebus buttons satisfied the rage for riddles by presenting words, numbers and pictures that sounded like or represented other words and phrases.
Rhodoid Button
RHODOIDS --
RIVITED STEEL -- See CUT STEELS
ROSARIAN -- Glass buttons made with a hole through the center where the brass wire shank was inserted. Commonly referred to as PIN SHANKS
Rosette Shank Button ROSETTE SHANK -- A 6-petal shaped plate supporting a loop shank.

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RUBBER -- Buttons made of hard rubber. May or may not have back marks such as the following:
  • N.R.Co. = Novelty Rubber Company
  • I.R.C.Co. = India Rubber Comb Company
  • I.R.C.Co. = India Rubber Comb Company
  • A.R.Co. = American Rubber Company
 
S

SALT FINISH -- Glass buttons which have finely crushed glass, called frit, applied to the surface while still hot and soft.  The surface looks and feels rough, like salt.

SATIN FINISH -- Buttons identified by a satiny sheen when turned in the light.
SATSUMA -- Japanese porcelain typically with a soft shiny cream crackled glaze. Gold decoration in the form of outlines, borders, and finely dotted shading and backgrounds set off the designs. Generally the back shows the typical cream crackled. Matte black and cobalt blue backgrounds are also found.
SCRIMSHAW -- Bone or ivory products decorated with engraved designs highlighted with dark agents (such as India Ink or Lampblack) rubbed into the engraved lines. Some scrimshaw is colored with inks or berry stains.
SELF SHANK -- A button back made of 2 or 3 separate pieces, where the inserted back piece forms the shank portion of the button.

SHEATH FINNISH -- Glass buttons with a core of one color covered or decorated with different color(s).  The button color is based on the color showing at the tip of the shank.

SHEETS -- Buttons made from a thin sheet of celluloid, mounted in metal or drawn like fabric over a button frame.  See also: Bubble Top, Face Center, Perforate, Shield, Tight Top.

SHIELD -- A thin sheet of transparent celluloid used to shield something fragile, such as fabric, lithographs or habitat material.
SNAP-TOGETHERS -- Modern buttons molded in two or more differently colored pieces designed to be put together (snapped). When snapped together, they may be simple realistics, or complex buttons such as a 4-piece button that has a pearlized center, a gold (metallized plastic) ring, a ring of molded pearlized balls, and a black base.
Snappette Button SNAPPETTES (SNAP-ONs) --
STICK-UPS -- a perforated celluloid top that fits over protruding design piece(s) of metal, glass, celluloid, etc. When there is a metal rim, it is a separate piece; when rimless, the celluloid sheet folds down over the edge to hold parts together. See PERFORATE
Stoneware button - front & back
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STONEWARE -- Hard, non-porous clay that is either glazed or unglazed (bisque).  See JASPERWARE and WEDGWOOD.

SWIRBACK -- A cord-like winding off of the button around a metal shank.
 
T
TEXTILES -- See FABRICS
TightTop button - front & back
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TIGHT TOP -- A solid sheet of celluloid drawn tightly and smoothly over the button frame.  Usually, a metal band clamps the celluloid to the back.
THREAD GROOVE --
TILEs -- A tile design is molded into the glass body, filled with either molten glass or glass powder, then fused with heat.  The entire surface is smooth and level.
TINGUE -- A layer of clear colorless glass with a very thin colored glass (typically red) sheet overlay on top. This piece is cemented to a glass base with a thin sheet of reflective gold foil or leaf between them. The button is faceted to improve reflection.
TORTOISE SHELL -- Originally made from the shells of tortoises, imitation tortoise shell is far more common, and can be either glass or plastic, or sometimes horn.

TRANSPARENT GLASS -- Glass buttons which show light through at least one angle or direction.  This differs from CLEAR COLORLESS GLASS in that buttons may contain blends of multiple transparent colors.
TURRET SHANK --
Twinkle Button TWINKLES --
 
U
 
V
Vegetable Ivory Button VEGETABLE IVORY -- Made from corozo or taugua palm nut, they are naturally a light beige color and take dye well. Often the self shanks were drilled after dyeing, showing the natural color. Buttons were carved and drilled, dyed, painted, printed, and impressed with designs of all sorts. Metal escutcheons, pearl and glass inserts, holes filled with glitter decorate vegetable ivory. Pores can be seen.
VICTORIAN -- Buttons with opaque, translucent or transparent glass, with low relief and/or finely incised flowing designs (art nouveau).
 
W

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WATCH CASE --

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WATCH CRYSTAL -- Buttons made with a fragile glass top, resembling a watch crystal, attached to a wide shank plate with a thick layer of adhesive material.

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WHISTLE -- A term strictly used by collectors, it refers to all buttons constructed with one hole on the top and two or more holes on the back. This was done to save on the wear and tear of the thread. When the button is sewn on, the thread becomes recessed, therefore protecting it from daily wear. Whistle buttons can be found in a wide variety of materials.

WHITE GLASS -- Includes Mile, clambroth or camphor, opalescent, ivory and cream glass.
 
X
 
Y
 
Z
Zia Button ZIA --