Yellow China Buttons

A collector asked me what seemed at first to be a simple question:  “Did I have any yellow china buttons?”  Answering that question involved some digging, but the result was interesting and I’m sharing it with you in the following text and images.

It seems that yellow was not a color in fashion when china buttons were introduced in the mid 19th century.  I don’t think I have seen a single button with solid yellow body color or a button decorated with a yellow calico transfer pattern from the earlier period of  porcelain/china button production.

Very soon after I wrote that sentence, our friend in France, Matthew Brown, sent me a scan of a calico button with a yellow transfer pattern.  And soon after that, I actually received another example of the same pattern in the mail, also from France. I am revising my statement to say that yellow was rarely used for calico patterns. And here is the example:

Light lemon luster did appear to be in use on early china buttons and this photo includes two whistle shapes and a pattern eye with this decorative finish.

An early sample card from the Bapterosses factory in Briare France includes similar light lemon lustered examples of other body styles. Shown here are seven different luster finishes on a mound body type. On the bottom of the card the same lusters on shown on deepwell body styles.

Another sample card of an uncatalogued body type also produced by Bapterosses, a ball shape, includes yellow lustered examples.  Also of interest on this card are buttons with a matte finish, which we do not see often on other body types.  The ball shape shares with whistle shape # 10, a slightly raised molded band around its midsection.

Another treatment which is  unusual is a painted top button, a piecrust, which stops short of being a full body color in yellow. You can see the pearl lustered rim of the button in the photo.

There are also a few stencil patterns found in a bold yellow, but they are scarce and also were produced much later.  Guidelines lists yellow as a documented color on stencil pattern #s 1, 2, 17, 20, 22.  #17 is missing from the scan below.

It appears that it wasn’t until china buttons were manufactured from glass type ingredients, that full yellow bodied buttons appeared. Our National Button Society Blue Book refers to these buttons as “china type buttons” and they are included with earlier examples in our classification of china buttons. We know from digs at the Bapterosses factory discharge site, that these buttons were produced there, in traditional and varying body styles. And since we know from the current factory sources in Briare, that the Bapterosses factory  ceased all button production in the early 1960’s,  that dates these buttons to before that time.   Shown in the photo are a tiny mound, an uncatalogued four hole button, a fish eye, a two-way inserted self shank shape #20 button, and an uncatalogued self shank type.  The buttons are also shown from the reverse.

Another card of china type buttons decorated post production and offered for sale on a French card, shows the pattern eye shape #2 in bright solid yellow.

China type buttons were also manufactured by other factories .  Shown below is a card bearing the Jablonex logo, a flying “J”. Jablonex in Czechoslovakia is known for its glass button production. The card shows the very large variety of colors produced  in a china type saucerlike hollow-eye button, including three shades of varying intensity yellow. I don’t have a time frame for these buttons, but I suspect it was comparable to Bapterosses’ later production.

I’d love to hear about, or see, any other yellow china buttons that might add to this answer of the yellow china button question.

Author: Frankie Winters

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

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