Vintage Buttons: My Latest Jewelry Making Obsession

Last summer, I stumbled upon some really unique vintage buttons in the basement of one of my favorite East Village shops and incorporated many of them into a button necklace and bracelet, both which have since found good homes. Since then, I’ve collected several more vintage and antique buttons with the idea of making more of these one-of-a-kind pieces, but I didn’t want to let go of my collection. One day, as I was browsing a jewelry making supply site, I discovered molds for precious metal clay pre-made from antique buttons. I ordered a few and had fun making pieces out of them, and then the epiphany hit that I could make my own molds out of my button collection so I could recreate them over and over again in fine silver.

Precious Metal Clay Vintage Button Jewelry

I ordered the mold making material from Cool Tools. It comes in two parts – the blue and white – and it feels kind of like Silly Putty. You mix together equal parts of both, which activates the material, and then form it over anything with a texture. In five minutes you have a flexible mold that you could use to make pieces out of any kind of clay. I love that the molds are totally non-stick, so I didn’t have to worry about applying any kind of oil to them before using them with the precious metal clay.

Precious Metal Clay Vintage Button Jewelry

I did learn a few things while using this stuff. I roll each part into a ball before combining them together so I can gauge if they’re roughly the same size. I didn’t have any problems with my molds not setting, so this method works for me. When I made my first molds, I formed the material around the buttons which resulted in really deep molds, meaning I needed to use more clay in each one. The second time I made molds, I flattened the material slightly and then pressed the button into it. This worked out much much better and resulted in smooth uniform pieces.

Precious Metal Clay Vintage Button Jewelry

After the buttons are fired in the kiln, which takes about two hours, they come out with a matte white finish that needs to be removed with a brass bristle brush. Then I almost always polish my silver pieces right away in the tumbler, so they’ll be clean and pretty and ready for using in a finished piece.

Precious Metal Clay Vintage Button Jewelry

I love how the molds capture all of the tiny little details in these buttons, which are recreated perfectly in the fine silver.

Precious Metal Clay Vintage Button Jewelry

I’ve been making molds from other things too, particularly vintage jewelry components that are one-of-a-kind and am now on the lookout for other little things I can turn into silver jewelry. The necklace in the last set of photos is available in my shop as is another necklace made from one of the buttons in my collection. Many more are coming soon! If you have an old button that you’d like to see turned into a necklace or earrings, I would be happy to work with you on a custom design.

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