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Buttons have been in use for hundreds of years. In very early times, clothing was fastened with ties or pins, but gradually toggles and buttons as we know them came to be in use.  Many ancient burials have included buttons or button-like objects.  In the Early and Middle Bronze Age, large buttons were primarily used to fasten cloaks. By the 13th century, buttons were widely in use, mainly as decoration.  As most clothing of that time period was closed with lacing or hooks, garments didn’t use buttons as methods of closing on a regular basis until the last half of the 16th century.  Most of the buttons from this time period were small, but over the next century or so they became larger and very ornate, often using precious metals and jewels.  During the 17th and18th Century, most buttons were worn by men. 

 Although buttons are known from the 13th century, the first reference to a buttonhook is in the early 17th century, and its origins remain unexplored. It is possible that buttonhooks were first designed or required in the 16th century, when stout leather military jerkins and tough civilian garments were in use, and it is likely that the button hook survived until the 1800’s in association with the military buff coat, also with gaiters and leggings. Buttonhooks exist today which can be reasonably dated from the 1800’s onwards but popular use of the buttonhook seems to have arrived with the high fashion of the gentleman’s button boot in c.1837. However, it is unlikely any of these early buttonhooks were made from silver or other precious metal, the fashion for these coincided with the introduction of the ladies button boot in the 1880’s. Gloves were also a necessary fashion accessory at this time and whilst glove hooks, often made in steel with Mother-of-Pearl or bone handles, had been in use since the 1850’s, the introduction of silver glove hooks became widespread from the 1880’s.

As ladies now wished to have their shoes and boots fastened in the bedroom, by their ladies maids, it was natural for the buttonhook which lay on the dressing table to match everything else. This meant silver, or very occasionally gold. Soon every lady with social pretensions wanted a silver handled buttonhook on her dressing table. It was a challenge which the silversmiths of London, Birmingham and Sheffield were happy to meet. At the same time a parallel silver industry was developing in the USA, France and other cities resulting in a separate production of buttonhooks, some of which were exported to Britain.

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