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Using Buttons in Jewelry

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Figure 1
Vintage beads attract a lot of interest, the new shaped beads attract a lot of interest, and findings and tools can attract a lot of interest from beaders. But what kind of interest is there about buttons and how are they used in beadwork? One member of the bead society of New Hampshire has an antique button collection. She did a presentation to the society on the history of buttons and showed us how beautiful the antique finds could be. There are groups that get together to discuss, share and enjoy buttons, but since I’ve never joined one, that presentation was an eye opener.

I have used buttons in several of my designs. Sometimes I design a necklace around the button (Figure 1). Other times, I take a plain button and bead it so that I can get something that’s going to match my beadwork perfectly (Figure 2).
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Figure 2
One thing to know about antique buttons is that you should never cut the shank, as that also cuts into the button’s value. Some peyote bracelet patterns actually leave a hole in the beadwork if someone is going to use the button with the shank so that the shank will go into the hole made and fit flawlessly with the beadwork. This can also be done using buttons as a focal point in in a necklace. I have seen one designer sew down to the shank with beads, go through the shank, add a loop of beads that is hidden behind the button yet is big enough not to let the bead strand go through the shank, and sew back up.
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Figure 3
At one bead show, I bought several antique buttons that were made into clasps with sterling silver. They are beautiful, but I still enjoy making my own clasps, pendants, and embellishments with buttons. Polymer clay artists are now making their own buttons to incorporate into their designs. So the sky is the limit. I find looking for vintage buttons to be a nice past time; but, with what we have today, modern buttons offer us quite a few choices. They’re made out of bone, plastic, pewter, mother-of-pearl, and metal. Next time you’re designing a piece, see if you can incorporate a button into its design.

The simplest way to do that is to use the button with a strand of beads as a toggle. For instance, the wavy flag bracelet can be finished with military buttons for very patriotic touch (Figure 3).

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