Monday, January 31, 2011

Buttons and Social Constructionism

I've been thinking a lot lately about buttons.

It probably has something to do with the new collection I've been working on lately, or maybe it's that I haven't written a research paper in a while, but I kept wondering about buttons and their purpose in life, until I finally caved in and asked my favorite know-it-all, Google.

Just as I suspected, a button's main purpose throughout their long expanse of being (over 5,000 years!) has been functional and practical: fasteners for clothing. But, they have also had a historical use as ornamentation and seals, political campaign propaganda, lockets to hold miniature compasses during wars, and containers for drug smuggling.

What a fabulous smattering of uses!

And now, here I am (although definitely not the first to come up with the idea) making jewelry out of them. The buttons I am using in my jewelry also have an interesting story behind them.

Victorian Black Glass Buttons

Although they are not scarce, Victorian black glass buttons can be difficult to find and some, particularly the imitation fabric type, are quite valuable. They were first made in the 1500's, but it wasn't until the death of Prince Albert in 1861 that they became popularly used in dress. Queen Victoria wore nothing but black until her death in 1903, and fashion trends of that time followed her lead. You can find more about them (and all sorts of other buttons!) here.

The buttons I have that I am using in my new collection have all sorts of different designs, patterns, and images. One of my favorites looks like a seashell. Most of them have a beautiful silver luster and are faceted, which make them extra unique and serve beautifully as re-purposed 'stones' in my jewelry. I love to re-use items in ways they weren't originally intended for, and these buttons are finding new loving homes set in sterling silver as one more form of ornamentation. Their life goes on!

Here are a couple pictures of my two finished pieces set with these beautiful adornments.

Meteor 2010
© Erica Freestone
Sterling silver necklace pendant set with vintage Victorian black glass button.
Vintage Princess 2011
© Erica Freestone
Sterling silver double-banded ring with vintage Victorian black glass button.

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