Chapter 3: Two-Hole China Buttons

Chapter Three: Two-Hole China Buttons

Parts 1-9

Part 1: Two-Hole Hollow-Eye China Buttons

All china buttons included in this section have round circular sewing wells of varying size and depth. Twenty-four different shapes are catalogued.

I am going to copy here the introductory tabulation for color and pattern as this is the first time it is really put into use.

Chapter two begins with an explanation of the system devised by Lamm and Schuler to provide uniform labeling for all china buttons. The system is used throughout the text, where appropriate. They first assigned a name to each body type and displayed each variation that they found in that one body type. Throughout the text, buttons of all types are labeled as follows:

“A” refers to an opaque white button; ”B” denotes color trim on white body; “C” is a lustered body; “D” is an opaque body color other than white; “E” represents color trim on a colored body; “F” is marbled; “G” indicates a metal rim on the button. A lower case letter, “a” through “m” is assigned to each decorative pattern found on china buttons. Of course, not every button has been found in all of the possible treatments. (And I am choosing to ignore the complexity of the lower case labeling denoting patterns.)

Two-hole hollow eye buttons begin with shapes 1-5, termed “Ringers”. Three-banded ringers are more uncommon than the two-banded examples, and those with three bands on colored bodies are the most scarce.

Shape 1, the two-banded ringer is found with color on a white body, with a colored ring, rim and usually a tinted back (1B) and and in opaque colored bodies with colored ring and rim (1E).

Shape 2, the three banded ringer is found in an opaque white body (2A), colored trim on a white body (2B) and colored trim on an opaque colored body (2E). Shape 2 is flat like Shape 1.

Shape 3 is decorated with three bands but the surface slopes up from the rim, rather than being flat as in Shapes 1 and 2. It is found undecorated (opaque white) and trimmed as in Shape 2. Ironically, the opaque white examples of both Shapes 2 and 3 are scarce, with Shape 3 being htf (hard to find).

Shape 4 is a variation, standing higher in the center as Shape 3 does, but decorated differently in that only the center band and sewing well remain white. Only one example, with brown trim and measuring 11/16″ has been catalogued and it is htf .

Shape 5 is scarce, found in white with brown bands.

Somehow my examples intended to match Plate 29 are a bit scrambled. Good practice reading the labeling system?

Shapes 6 through 12 are shown on Plate 30 and are grouped together inasmuch as at the time of tabulation, none of these shapes were found with color trim. Introduced are two new body finishes: “C” for lustered, “D” for opaque body color other than white (and without trim), and “F” for marbled. The marbled/crockery appearing examples are very attractive but not especially rare. They are found in shades of green, gray, brown, tan, black and blue. These shapes are found commonly in both small and medium sizes.

And Shape 6 as an exception to the rule of untrimmed bodies:

Plate 31 includes Shapes 13 and 14. Remember my theory about half igloos and shape 13? I have another example of an igloo disk missing the domed top posted below the scan of these buttons. Of Shape 14 examples, A, opaque white is the most uncommon.

Plate 32 continues with hollow-eyes termed “Saucer-like”. Here the colored buttons are in sharp contrast to the black and white plate, particularly shape 15. The plate also shows the three different backs found on this one shape, shown as “0″, “00″ and “000.” It is difficult to see the differences in the plate, but “0″ has a slight depression around the holes, “00″ has a recessed ring and “000″ is flat. Not shown in the plate but in evidence on my card is Bw (a dark body color–inasmuch as Guidelines distinguishes cream a dark body color in contrast to white– with a broken band).

Plate 33 concludes the hollow-eyes with the remaining six catalogued shapes, grouped as “off-beat” shapes.

Shape 26 has proved to be the most difficult for me to find.

I think it is reasonably difficult to identify these shapes, particularly without a copy of Guidelines which gives a bit more description (usually the color and size found). I suggest using a fingernail to trace the surface of your button, while scanning the cross-sections shown in the plates.

PART 2: Deepwell China Buttons

Strangely, the white deepwell is more difficult to find than the many colored and combination examples.

PART 3: Two-Hole China Button with Smooth Beveled Rim

The description of this button refers to the common four-hole dish: “As we shall see when four-hole buttons are described, one of the most plentiful shapes has a smooth beveled rim enclosing a ‘dished’ center. But when we looked for two-hole buttons of that shape, we were able to find only one single, solitary example. It is pearl luster,size 9/16″. ”

There is no example shown and I am still looking for one.

PART 4: Tire Shape

From Guidelines: “This basic shape gets its name from the rim which is tubular. Plate 35 shows four examples all of which have a moderately heavy tire around a wide, flat center.” Examples noted are white, lustered, opaque body colors and one button with a spatter type calico pattern and another with purple spatter on the rim. Below I have a photo of a tire shape with a silver luster rim.

PART 5: Two-Hole China Buttons with Radiating-Line Rims

From Guidelines: “All of the buttons in this group have rims molded with lines (ridges-and-grooves) which radiate from a center or encircle the edge.”

1. Pie-crust. This button is common in a four-hole type, but rare in the two-hole variety. White with pearl luster is the only type seen. (Rare)

2. Elongated holes identify this type, seen only in diminutives. (Less rare)

3. Called the sunburst type, this button is shown below in my scan, separate from the others. Before the china/glass controversy was settled, this button definitely exhibited glass characteristics and has no resemblance to its china relatives. All the examples I have seen have a silver luster center extending out on the rays.

4. Fluted-rim type, this button is a beauty, seen only in white. Two sizes are recorded: 5/8″ and 11/16″. (Rare)

5. Concave shape with 21 radiating lines extending out from a flat center to a raised-ring edge. They are described as a cream body with black or pink edge measuring 3/4″. (Rare)

6. Quatrefoil (star or cross) center. (Common)

7. Eight radiating lines start from the center and extend out over a slightly rolled rim. Seen only in pearl luster. (Rare)

8. Small deep center with radiating lines covering a rolled rim. Seen in white, lustered, opaque colors and a painted top. Often called a “Plump”. (Common)

9. Thirteen point rosette “with tips meshed to notches in the beveled rim.” Brown in a 1/2″ size is listed; mine is tan and 5/8″ in diameter.

Shape 3:

PART 6: China Buttons with Oval Eyes

From Guidelines: Oval-eye holes, always two in number, are set within an oval depression, which may have either rounded or boxed ends.

Oval Eyes are found in five shapes:

1. Mounds (Common)

2. Smooth top, low, convex, sometimes almost flat (Common)

3. Hobnail (Rare)

4. Low convex top with narrow molded rim. White, opaque color other than white and calico patterns. (Rare)

5. Czechoslovakia flat tops with spoke-and-circle (Common)

Plate 38 shows all the variations in color and patterns on smooth top oval eye buttons– it is my favorite group of china buttons! What do you think?

In the fourth row, Cb and Cc should be explained. The first is a luster (pearl) over a calico pattern (pink) and the second is a calico pattern (white) over a luster (orange).

Bi is an example of a calico pattern on a two-hole oval eye. Calicos are more often found on a four-hole dish type, and often the two-hole examples sport the less common patterns.

Bj is a gingham pattern which is discussed in greater detail later in Guidelines.

Stencils in the majority of patterns are found on oval eye bodies– some may also be found on both the smooth-top oval eye and the fish-eye body.

Missing from my collection are Ba (full cover on a white body; Ca below is full luster on a cream body–picky, picky these china collectors….), as well as two other patterns described as ”scalloped band” and “dots around the edge in trefoil pattern”. Also elusive is k: “Plaids other than ginghams. Reported in blue, red.” Another example I’ve yet to find is Ec, a colored body with a banded edge, side bare.

The metal rimmed smooth top sitting atop the photo from Guidelines is a late addition.

With all this variety, there are still other patterns accepted by china collectors. A few are shown below.

And then I found another lovely smooth top oval eye with a transfer pattern that is discussed in our National Button Bulletin July 1985. It was found by Diana Epstein and Millicent Safro, along with approximately 99 other examples, in an Albert Parent sample book. The buttons ranged in size from 21/32″ to 27/32″ and the bulletin describes them as “lustered and stenciled with a multitude of different pattens, some multi-colored. They cannot be classed with our well known stencils because the pattern is not medallion-like. Neither do they resemble our calicoes.”

A second type of oval eye button is the Czechoslovakian flat top with spoke-and-circle. ”A” the plain opaque white body is surprisingly difficult to find. ”Ba” is missing from my collection, described as “Color trim on white body; rim fully covered. Gold rim with green or purple center band.” Common are buttons with broken bands (“Bg1″) and band in combination with broken band (“Bg2″). ”Bl” is an example of the entire top painted/lustered. Guidelines documents only a blue example, but other colors have surfaced. ”C”, the final example is a lustered finish

China mounds, a third type of oval eye button, demonstrate a tremendous range of color, color combinations, and sizes. Guidelines describes them: ”a molded rim encloses a raised center having two holes in an oval eye. The shape is called a ‘tiny-mound’ when it has an incised line near the edge, a broad bevel sloping down to a mound just wide enough to hold the oval-eye…..A ‘regular’mound is proportioned the other way around, its center being wider than its rim.” (1) refers to white body examples; (2) refers to plain colored body examples. Patterns are given in the order of supply: (a) mound and rim of different color; (b) a narrow band or pin-line encircling th mound to separate it from the rim; (c) color around extreme edge covering the side of the button; (d) mound and rim of different color, metallic line around the mound.” Continuing with tiny-mounds (e) heavy band around the rim and (f) matching bans around mound and near edge.

The two variations in pattern shown at the bottom of the scan above are not catalogued in Guidelines. The wavy gold lined pattern is mentioned in NBB May-June 1972 and shown on saucer-like hollow eye buttons, but here seen on a tiny-mound. Far right lower line is a metal rimmed tiny mound of which I have found several examples, but again, it is undocumented.

PART 7: Fisheye China Buttons

Leaving oval eye china buttons behind, Guidelines says “fisheye is a trade name for two holes inside a spindle-shaped depression.” It continues with a misstatement that “fisheyes are never seen on calico buttons”– of which I will show you at least one a bit later. Size range is listed from 7/16″ up to 1-1/8″. One example of a fisheye on a square button has been found. Color range is large, with pink the only color documented as a painted top rather than a solid body color (shown below as “1″). Lustered examples are found (shown below as “2″). The majority of fisheye china buttons sport a stencil pattern and these are catalogued separately later in Guidelines. Other patterns are (a) color trim in two depressions in button and enclosing the fisheye; (b) banded edge; (c) pin-line touching tips of fisheye; (d) two bands. Pattern “a” is not considered a stencil pattern because the surface of the button includes recesses and all other stencil patterns have a smooth surface surrounding the fisheye.

PART 8: Panty-Waist Chinas

From Guidelines, “The two-hole china button, commonly called a ‘panty-waist’, is a plain little thing, about half an inch across, with a slightly convex top and a flat back. It is recognized by its extra large holes which differ from others by having no sewing-well of any kind.  It was made that way for a special purpose, namely, so that it could be attached to the child’s undergarment from a loop of narrow tape.  The large holes carried the tape and let the button hang free.”

All of the buttons are perfectly plain except for one example with slightly incised small lines giving a rayed effect. (I’ve never seen an example of this button.) White and cream buttons (A) are plentiful; mother-of-pearl and cream luster (C) and gray and black (D) are more uncommon.

PART 9: Pattern-Eyes

Pattern-eyes are described by Guidelines as buttons having the two holes as part of the design or pattern molded into the button. Of the three patterns, the first, resembling a scallop shell, is by far the most rare. The second is regarded as a cross pattern and is found in plain white, a luster finish and many opaque body colors. The third button has an eight-pointed star in the center of the button. It is found in plain white (A) and also with a gold star and black or blue painted surrounding area on a white body (B). (C) is a luster finish: white luster with gold star center on a white body and iridescent luster on a black body. (D) is an opaque body color. Guidelines lists black as the only version of (D) but in the past few years variations of body and luster colors have been found.

Lower buttons show variations in pattern eye cross button, a marbled body and opaque body colors with painted dots. The sample card shows pattern eye buttons and inserted two way self shank buttons in the variety of opaque body colors mentioned in Guidelines.

Two button types not addressed in Guidelines are shown below.  The first is a two hole button with elongated eyes, rather like a low profile smooth top.  It is shown in pink on the cover of the May 2007 National Button Bulletin.  The other type has been seen in white on a china sample card and is shown here in both a mottled brown and mottled blue.  It might be described as a two hole hobnail deepwell.

Author: Frankie Winters

I'm a Designer, Maker, and Developer in Portland, Oregon. I have two little girls and keep a meticulously organized garage.

3 thoughts on “Chapter 3: Two-Hole China Buttons”

  1. I am asking about the following button..A

    “second type of oval eye button is the Czechoslovakian flat top with spoke-and-circle. ”

    I found one from new old stock from the Chex factory. It fits this description. However at 5 0’clock it has a raised piece of glass that covers the top half of 5 0’clock.I is about an 1/8 of an inch high.I feel foolish asking if it has a name or is it just a cull button.

    I will try and scan or take a pic late.

  2. Hello, I found what I believe to be a china button and cannot find one like it anywhere and I though someone might be able to help me. The button is an off white luster with 2 hole in a rectangle eye; the ends are right angles, not oval at all.

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