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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Livery Buttons - A Short History


Bunny Livery Button  Your Daily Jewels Necklace
Happy Bunny on Labradorite Chain - 1850's  Your Daily Jewels

Livery Buttons

Invicta Pendant Livery Button
Invicta -" Undefeatable" - estim. 1790.

Sometime in the 13th century the idea of a buttonhole and button was conceived.

In the 18th century, buttons were truly tiny works of art. Button making became a profitable sideline for many of the starving artists of the day. Typically, the most exquisite of these buttons was about the size of a 50- cent piece. 

A “livery” is an insignia, symbol, or uniform button worn by one who provided service to a noble or aristocrat to represent their relationship to their employer.

My passion, my quest, my contribution to history:

As a card-carrying member of the National Button Society, one of my favorite pastimes is scouring the earth for 18th and 19th Century relics in order to preserve them. I cast from them, in order to create beautiful modern heirlooms for you, to be worn and passed on for centuries more.

Livery Initial Button
Initial Pendants are Made from Wax Seal Stamps and Livery Buttons at Your Daily Jewels

The word itself comes from the French “livrée”, meaning delivered. Most often it would indicate that the wearer of the livery was a servant, depend-ent, follower, or friend of the owner of the “livery.” Like heraldic Crests, a livery button was a fast way to identify friend or foe in a time of war.

Notre Dame Pendant by Your Daily Jewels Religous Medal
Notre Dame - Early 1800's - Made to Order at Your Daily Jewels

The fashion for livery buttons started among the upper classes in the mid-eighteenth century, and lasted as an accepted practice into the Edwardian era of the early twentieth century. 

After the first World War, new income tax and changing social and economic conditions quietly put an end to the era of the livered servant among the wealthy upper class. 

latin Livery Coin
Scottish Livery, "I Ready Myself with Arms"

Beyond the prevalent use of Latin, there is a whole cryptic language  and symbolism to livery buttons, heraldry, and crests & shields. I am having fun learning the meaning behind many of them. 

For fascinating history you can read The Big Book of Buttons by Hughs & Lester, http://www.ukdfd.co.uk, and Fairbairns Book of Crests, London : T. C. & E. C. Jack.  I will be more sharing as I learn.

latin Livery Coin
Scottish, Cuff button

Thank you for reading,

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Latin Livery Coin Pendant Your Daily Jewels
Spero Melior - Hope for Better Things - 1832


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Your comments mean a lot to me. Thanks, Norah.