Black Glass Buttons

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Centuries ago glass was known to man! This seems to be incredible, but true! Glass beads were found in King Tut’s tomb when it was discovered in the 1920s. When Queen Victoria’s beloved Albert died suddenly she adopted black mourning clothes for the rest of her life. She also adorned herself with black jet jewelry made from Whitby jet, which was mined in Whitby, England. Because of the popularity of this black jewelry and buttons and because the demand exceeded the supply, black glass was substituted to fill this demand.

There are literally thousands of patterns and designs used in the manufacture of black glass buttons. There are plain black glass buttons, silver and gold lustres, blue, pink, green and copper lustres, faceted, and engraved, as well. Iridescent black glass was invented before “carnival” glass and yet many uninformed persons request carnival glass buttons! There are glass wafers, screenbacks, Tingues, watch crystals, paperweights, moonglows and Poppers. There are a multitude of shapes and sizes all made from black glass. One could spend an entire lifetime just collecting black glass buttons—antique, vintage and modern.

At the Keep Homestead Museum there are cards of black glass buttons, bags of them and boxes of them, many still waiting to be carded and inventoried. It is obvious to those who have been working on the buttons at the museum that Myra had a keen interest in collecting these buttons. She had accumulated so many of them!  In the latest exhibit, cards of black glass buttons have been selected to show the visitor that there is a vast array of many different types of black glass buttons. Perhaps visitors will find a particular kind that appeals to them!

Be sure to note the rose-colored 1890s dress on display with 39 faceted black glass buttons. There would have been 40 buttons but for the owner shortening the dress, thus eliminating the need for that fortieth button. Upstairs in the 1890s bedroom there is another dress on display. You will notice that there are small black glass buttons on the front of the dress. They are all approximately the same size, but they have different designs on their fronts. We can suppose that at one time a button was lost and replaced by another of the same size.

As you examine the buttons in the new display please notice the display of mosaic buttons in the floor cabinets. They are one of the rare kinds of black glass buttons at the Keep Homestead Museum.

Written by Jacquie Hatton, 2009

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