A few years ago when I told a friend that I was getting interested
in button collecting, she sighed and told me that her aunt used to
collect buttons. My friend couldn’t see the point—cards of old
black glass buttons . . .boring.
Of course there’s more to button collecting than black glass, but
it is an important aspect in the history of many old collections. And
you’re bound to find some in your travels whether you are searching
or not. I found myself with quite a few and the urge to corral them
into mounted button cards. My last post featured the small to medium
ones and today will be the larger black glass buttons.
“What is jet?”, you interrupt, “and how can I tell the difference between
glass and jet?”
Pull up a chair while I tell you what I know. Queen Victoria lost her
soulmate Prince Albert in 1861 and wore black mourning clothes for the
rest of her life. Even her jewelry was black. Even the buttons on her
clothes were black. Her buttons were made of jet–a material kind of like
coal because it is mined from rocks that have fossilized forms in them.
The jet was mined in Yorkshire, in an area near Whitby, and sometimes
you’ll hear jet referred to as “Whitby jet” (you just have to get out more!)
Because the queen wore jet, everybody else wanted jet buttons—but
there wasn’t a huge supply, so enterprising button makers started using
black glass to emulate jet. Some even still called it “jet”, but it was really
A couple of simple ways to distinguish jet from glass are helpful. Jet is
warm to the touch, glass is cold. Jet is a carved material with a soft
sheen, glass is molded and has a high shine. It is rare to find jet today
so assume you have glass and don’t worry about it! I have two buttons
that were sold to me as “jet” but I take that with a grain of salt.
Because the larger black glass buttons might have been used on
Victorian coats and heavy suits, I decided to make my mounting card
background look like a lovely wool tweed . . .
The largest button is the one in the center, and it measures 1 7/8 inches in
diameter. Some others of interest are along the top of the card—a carved
black moth glass button, early, has a small chip; a “carnival” glass art deco
design in the center of top row, and on the right a “jet and crochet” button
that is kind of fascinating. I hope you can enlarge your photo so that you
can study these.
Then at the bottom of the card, are some silver lustred black glass
buttons. I am suspicious of the age of the two in either lower corner
even though they were in a collection of early buttons . . .
For the hardier type button folks—those who dwell on such things,
here are two more photos to finish out the post. Thanks for stopping