Collecting Eiffel Tower buttons
Published: March 16, 2009
Thirteen years ago, I began collecting buttons. I wanted to collect a type of button that was dear to my heart, and at the same time a type that provided a good challenge. In other words, I wanted to look for buttons that were harder to find so that my hunt could continue for years.
Engraved shell on shell
Made for Elsa Schiaparelli, newsprint under celluloid
Burwood or Syroco
Steel cup with pearl background
I love France and the French language, and I have had the good fortune to visit France a number of times, beginning with a stay in Paris to fulfill my college language requirement. Spending the evening of July 14, Bastille Day, watching a stupendous fireworks display in front of the Eiffel Tower highlighted that first visit. To me, this structure is the epitome of France. To see the Eiffel Tower always induces wonder, no matter how many times I have already seen it.
So I set out on a hunt for buttons depicting the Eiffel Tower. The first one I found was made of composition. I thought it was ugly, but this button has appeared most often in my continuing search. I asked every button dealer at various state button shows I attended if they had any Eiffel Tower buttons. I found a 1940s Elsa Schiaparelli button of the Eiffel Tower made of a newsprint picture set in metal under a celluloid lens, and was very pleased.
Then I learned that many contemporary studio button artists have put their creative efforts into making buttons with images of the Eiffel Tower. Nancy DuBois of New Jersey made a paperweight button with a silver foil cut-out of the Eiffel Tower. Stella Rzanski of Ohio made a jasperware button. Cathy Mayer of Minnesota made a tooled white deerskin button with rhinestones. Many of these artists included the word "Paris" on the button, which added to my glee.
I heard about a large button made in the 1930s from molded sawdust and glue, a material called Burwood or Syroco, but I could not find one for sale. I wanted that button! I put out the word among my button collecting friends and within a month that button presented itself to me -- I felt so lucky!
My quest continued. I found a 21st-century hologram button, a 1950s French molded white metal button with pastes, and an enamel button. I found a steel cup with a pearl background behind the Eiffel Tower and a fop, a late 19th-century French male fashion figure. At a button auction, I saw a large engraved pearl button with an attached piece of carved shell in the form of the Eiffel Tower -- it was magnificent! And it was expensive; its price exceeded my budget. Once again I asked for this button at dealers' tables at button shows. At the Arizona button show a man showed me an example of that same button. It was for sale and within reach, and it became the glorious centerpiece on the card of my growing collection of Eiffel Tower buttons.
|Jane Quimby is a collector and dealer of antique and other collectible buttons. She lives in Boston and has been a member of the National Button Society since 1996, as well as a member of many state button societies. She can be reached at UQAPAJ@earthlink.net. Her Web site is bysonbuttons.com.|