Satsuma Buttons

When the Oriental Exhibit at the museum was on display, there were ninety-eight Satsuma buttons. They ranged in size from about 3/8 inch to over 2 inches in diameter. Most were round in shape, but there was at least one that was not.

We know from the Button-of-the­-Month on Arita buttons that several Satsuma buttons depicting gods were sent from Okinawa in 1958. They were finely decorated, some more ornately than others, and I would surmise that they were made in the first half of the 20th century.

All the Satsumas have the usual gold painted frame, with more of the same gold enhancing the design on the face of each button. The crackle glaze is evident on all the buttons as well. Some of the rims have the more ornate decoration attributed to the earlier Satsuma buttons of the 19th century. One has the cobalt blue with the Greek key surrounding the design of the button; others have cobalt blue enhanced with gold decorations on the circumference. A few of the buttons have been set into a gold colored metal and have a loop shank. All Satsumas have a porcelain self shank unless set in metal. Some of these buttons may be marked, but it is felt that these marks are not dependable because many were forged.

Ascertained from recent research: Satsuma ware is a Japanese pottery or semi porcelain named after the province of Satsuma where it was first made in the 15th century. But it was not until the 16th century that the distinctive crackle glaze was developed. And it is this same finish that helps us to identify the Satsuma buttons today. According to Sally Luscomb’s Encyclopedia it is doubtful that any Satsuma buttons were made until the last half of the 19th century.

The older Satsuma buttons have ornately painted designs with very fine details. Gold outlining is never absent on these older buttons. Often there are very fine gold dots in the background on the face of the button. The finer the detail on the Satsumas, the more highly prized by collectors! When you look at these buttons at the Keep, try to decide which ones would be the best to collect.

Written by: Jacquie Hatton, July 2000
President, Friends of Keep Homestead Museum
Updated by JMH, December 2003


Encyclopedia of Buttons, Sally Luscomb
Big Book of Buttons, Elizabeth Hughes and Marion Lester
Buttons, Diana Epstein and Millicent Safro

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