One would presume that Czech Glass buttons are made in the Czech Republic, but doing so would be a mistake. You see, after WWII, many Czech families who had been making glass buttons for centuries in the traditional Czech way, moved to Southern Germany. And with them, they brought their button-making knowledge. Although thousands of button making families migrated to Germany after the war, less than 100 of these families are still making buttons. With cheaper labor available just about anywhere in the world, this time-honored tradition is now limited to less than 100 families in Germany. However, the families that remain, still make these buttons using the same techniques their ancestors used, and in some cases, even the same equipment!
It all begins with very large rods of glass. These rods are heated in a furnace with an open flame. The temperature of the furnace needs to be anywhere between 1500 and 1800 degrees to melt the glass, depending on what kind of glass is being used. Once the glass is beginning to melt, the buttons can be formed.
This is done with a special tool, that holds a mold in it. The mold can be interchanged so that you can create different shapes and impressions with the glass.
This is actually a very quick process, and dozens are made every minute – even by hand. BUT, this is just the beginning of the process! Once the buttons are formed, they need to be annealed properly – this is the process of cooling down the glass at a very slow speed, so that it will not easily break in the future. This is one step that is not usually performed properly in countries where imitation Czech Glass buttons are made. Thus, the cheaper buttons tend to break far more than a button properly annealed in the trained hands of a professional.
Once cooled, the buttons need to be separated – this is done with a two small, round, very sharp circular blades – think of a can-opener, it is similar to that. After being separated, each individual button will need to have the edges smoothed out, which is done on a grinder. Not until the button is perfectly smooth, is it ready to sell.
Once cooled, the buttons need to be separated – this is done with a two small, round, very sharp circular blades – think of a can-opener, it is similar to that. (photo) After being separated, each individual button will need to have the edges smoothed out, which is done on a grinder. Not until the button is perfectly smooth, is it ready to sell.
Makers’ Mercantile carries Czech Glass buttons – made in Germany, just like this.