Buttons!

I’d always wanted to combine two of my favorite professions – archeology and the study of clothing – until I had a ‘duh’ moment, and realized there’s not a lot of clothing left down there.

Erm … yeah.

So I kind of dropped that idea. It’s always nice to return to it when I can, though. I love metal stuff, and metal usually survives pretty well underground. I call these O.R.Os – Old Rusty Objects. Here are a few O.R.Os (buttons) from the UK, all metal detector finds.

Some early buttons, and what is possibly a mount (top left picture, on left). The smallest buttons is like a doublet button, and is possibly lead. The oblong piece is a lead acorn-shaped button. The large button with a chip from the edge is a gorgeous medieval piece, with a fletched design in the center.

Three early buttons, and what is either a button or a mount (top left picture, on left). The smallest button is like a doublet button, and is possibly lead. The oblong piece is a lead acorn-shaped button, the loop at the top is broken off. The large button with a chip from the edge is a gorgeous medieval piece, with a design that reminds me of arrow fletching in the center.

Tudor doublet buttons and what might be an early sleeve button - if it's not early, it's 18th century. The doublet buttons always remind me of those Dots candies. The sleeve button here has a Tudor rose on it: my photography is bad and the button's corroded, so you may have to take my word for it.

Tudor doublet buttons and what might be a 15th c. sleeve button – if it’s not that early, it’s 17th – 18th century. The sleeve button here has a Tudor rose on it: my photography is bad and the button’s corroded, so you may have to take my word for it. The doublet buttons always remind me of those Dots candies. I like the one that’s ribbed. They are probably made of lead; they’re solid and pretty hefty.

Some tombac buttons from the 16th - 18th century, with one 18th century broken brass button. Tombac is an alloy of brass and copper, with possibly a little zinc, tin, or lead thrown in. Tombac is silvery-gold and seems somewhat stable - these buttons haven't corroded too badly.

Some tombac buttons from the 16th – 18th century, with a broken 18th century  brass button. Tombac is an alloy of brass and copper, with possibly a little zinc, tin, or lead thrown in. Tombac is silvery-gold and seems somewhat stable – these buttons haven’t corroded too badly. It was used for cheap buttons and jewelry.

One of my favorites: an 18th century sleeve button. It has a beautiful design of a ship under full sail.

One of my favorites: an 18th century sleeve button. It has a beautiful design of a ship under full sail. Like the earlier Tudor rose sleeve button, the link is neatly soldered so it wouldn’t stretch and fall apart. It’s a little ironic that on both examples, the second button itself broke off, instead of the link.

Another naval-themed 18th century button: a naval uniform button with a fouled anchor, haphazardly cut down to a smaller size.

Finally, another naval-themed 18th century button: a naval uniform button with a fouled anchor, haphazardly cut down to a smaller size. I guess it was easier to trim the button than enlarge the buttonhole – or maybe it wasn’t being used as a button any longer? Who knows.

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About Amanda Goebel

I'm an Anthropology / Fashion History and Material Culture graduate from The University of Delaware, currently working on a Master's in Museum Studies. I'm a living historian interested in costume and culture from years before. I love researching the mundane and the everyday that has changed or disappeared since. I re-enact the 18th century, and I recreate clothing from that time. This blog is where I'll write about my research and projects. View all posts by Amanda Goebel

2 responses to “Buttons!

  • westiedad

    Very cool! Did you find these yourself? Some amateur archaeology is getting closer to the top of my list.

    • Amanda Goebel

      I did not find these – I wish I had! These were bought as unidentified metal detector lots, and a family member and I have studied them. I have found one button that I did not list on this page: an American Civil War kepi button found at a previously unknown Georgia regiment encampment in Greenwood, VA.

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