4 Ways to Identify Vintage and Antique Buttons

Vintage and antique buttons are prized possessions for numerous reasons. These buttons are attractive and enhance any sort of clothing. Additionally, they are collectibles that carry a history and can hold tremendous value. Vintage and antique buttons are made from all sorts of materials, come from different areas of the globe, and feature different designs and styles. With so much to consider and inspect, it can be hard to tell if a button is vintage, antique, or a fake.

The Difference between Vintage and Antique Buttons
While vintage buttons have a lot in common with antique ones, there are some notable differences. Generally speaking, antique buttons must follow two guidelines: one, they must be around 100 years or older; and two, they must retain at least half of the original character, which means antique buttons lose their status if they have been fully restored.
Vintage buttons are typically between 50 and 100 years old, but can be more or less as the term vintage means the buttons apply to a specific era or year. In addition to these guidelines, there are certain standards that antique and vintage buttons must meet.

How to Determine If Vintage and Antique Buttons Are Legit
By looking at the material, analyzing how it was made, determining if it’s a collectible, and testing the material, buyers should be able to accurately discern if a button is vintage, antique, just old, or a modern fake.

Check the Material

The list of materials is extensive. Natural materials were originally utilized. Horn, ivory and bone buttons date back centuries and are identifiable by their soft, natural color and feel. Wood buttons were typically made using a Tagua nut and were most common from the 1860s until after World War I.

As technology improved, other materials also started being utilized to make buttons. It’s important to note that plastic was in its infancy during this time frame, so only celluloid, which was popular in the mid-19th century, and Bakelite, an early synthetic plastic that arrived in the early 1900s, were used. Other common, less expensive materials included metal, especially brass and copper. Gold buttons were rare, but still produced. Lucite, which is a poly-acrylic resin, was also used to make buttons after World War I because of its ability to take on many shapes, sizes, and colors. Glass, ceramic, and porcelain buttons were also produced during the 19th and early 20th century.


Analyze the Production Process

It’s vital to realize antique and vintage buttons weren’t mass produced. This is due to the fact production processes weren’t as advanced at the time; however, this ensured that care was given to each button. Four main production processes existed. Many antique buttons were handmade, and some vintage ones were. For antique and vintage buttons made of natural materials, carving was common. Stamping was used for vintage metal buttons; this process simply involved taking a sheet of metal and using a machine to stamp out the button. Molding was also common for many vintage buttons, including ceramic, Bakelite, and Lucite.


Determine If the Buttons Are Collectibles

Most antique and vintage buttons are collectible items, so this is a good way to tell if they are authentic. Satsuma buttons, for instance, were produced in Japan using ceramic and are valued for their exquisite detail and beauty. Black glass buttons hail from the Victorian Era, and were commonly worn after Prince Albert’s passing. Antique dog buttons came out in the 1800’s and are collected by certain communities today. The amount of collectible buttons on the market is nearly endless, so it’s important to perform research for this step.



Test the Material

Test if a material actually is what it’s advertised to be. For example, running hot water over a Bakelite button will make it smell like chemicals. When bumped against a hard material, glass buttons should clink. Copper buttons won’t adhere to a magnet. Bone, horn, and wood buttons have a smooth feel, and are heavier than plastic. There are many ways to test the material. Just be sure to be thorough with whatever testing method is chosen.

If you have come across interesting or unique buttons and you’d like to know more about them, or have them made into exquisite pieces of wearable art, contact me and we can discuss their history and new life as jewelry!