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Button Terms, part 2

A to Z: Part two
The first article of this two-part series served as a glossary of button-collecting terms beginning with the letters A through L. In continuing with the letters M through Z in this article, I have added more terms that are commonly used among avid collectors.
Modern in the button-collecting world refers to buttons made between 1918 and today. Manufacturing techniques, materials technologies, and design styles changed significantly during World War I, which ended in 1918. The National Button Society has adopted that year as a logical cut-off between old and modern buttons.
A mother-daughter button pair
Mother/daughter buttons are two buttons that are identical except in size. Many button designs were manufactured in various sizes.
Brass OME on a leather button
OME is an acronym for other material embellishment, or materials applied as embellishments to the base material of a button. Cut steel pieces were often used as OME on brass buttons, for example. Paste jewels were used as OME on buttons of many materials.
A one-piece thirties celluloid button
One-piece thirties refers to a certain type of Deco-era (thus, "thirties") celluloid button. These buttons are made of a wafer of pressed celluloid with an applied celluloid shank or sew-through holes. Often quite large, these buttons are found in various shapes and in a wide range of colors. They were made in both pictorial and nonpictorial designs; the most common pictorials depict animals, various sports, military scenes, and modes of transportation.
Modern three-part paperweight
Glass buttons called paperweights are made in much the same manner as desktop paperweights. A three-part paperweight has a base fused to a set-up (the design) and a transparent cap. A two-part paperweight has a set-up fused to the cap, with the set-up serving as the base.
A musical pictorial
Pictorial refers to buttons with picture designs. The range of pictorial buttons is astounding, covering just about any topic you can imagine. Many people build collections limited to particular pictorial subjects.
Polymer shield over paper lithograph
A shield button is made with a thin sheet of transparent glass or celluloid covering a more fragile material, such as a paper lithograph, a painting on ivory, or a habitat made of dried materials such as butterflies, grasses, and flowers. Shield buttons are more commonly old (pre-1918) but a number of modern shields were also made.
A snap-together
A snap-together button has two or more parts that snap together. In some, the shank is made in one piece with a top part that snaps through a hole in the base. In others, the base is molded with the shank already in place, and additional parts snap into perforations in the base. Snap-together buttons are mostly modern. Most are made of polymers.
A studio button is a modern artisan-crafted button made especially for sale to collectors, rather than for general commercial sale. Studio buttons are made in an infinite variety of materials.
Black glass tile with colored glass
A tile or tile-type button has a glass body molded with a concave design. After the button has been removed from the mold, the concave area is filled with powdered or molten glass, and then reheated to fuse the body and the added glass. After cooling, the surface is ground smooth.
A twinkle
Twinkles are metal buttons of two- or three-layer construction. The outer layer of metal is pierced to allow light to reflect off a polished metal background.
Modern vanity buttons
Vanity buttons feature a company's or designer's logo, initials, or name, often as the sole design element.
Lathe-turned vegetable ivory button, dyed and inlaid with shell
Vegetable ivory is a term for several species of palm nuts. When dried, the dense material is easily lathed or carved, has a creamy ivory color, and readily accepts paints and stains. Vegetable ivory has long been used to make figurines, jewelry, beads, and buttons.
Whistle inlaid with shell and silver
A whistle button has one hole on the face, and two or more holes drilled through the back from the bottom of the face hole. This arrangement protected from wear the thread used to sew a whistle to a garment. Whistles were made in a broad range of materials.
Mary Weinberg lives in Centerville, Ohio, and is a member of the Dayton and Columbus button clubs, the Buckeye State Button Society, and the National Button Society. She is currently the editor of the Buckeye State Button Society Ohio Bulletin, and her husband, Jim, is Webmaster of the Buckeye State Button Society Web site. While Mary loves the hunt for buttons and button competitions, she believes friendships are the best part of button collecting. You can e-mail her at More information about buttons can be found at

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