Mother of Pearl Buttons

Mother of pearl buttons are iridescent buttons made from an inner layer of certain shells. Especially shells of oysters and mussels that contain nacre, the mineral substance that forms pearls.

Mother of pearl shirt buttons are a classic detail handled and favored by the best tailors for over a century. Antique nacre buttons feature elaborate patterns and even sheer artistry. Steeped in history, they reveal ancient battlefields and thrill with refined openwork.

mother of pearl buttons

What makes these buttons so iconic is their inimitable pearly finish.

Mother of pearl buttons have more depth of color than plastic buttons. It takes a look to tell them from any other buttons due to their noble opalescent sheen.

So you think you know all about them? Here are 5 facts that will make you see good old mother of pearl buttons in a completely different light:

  1. At the beginning of the 20th century, 37% of buttons were made from the shells of freshwater molluscs found in the Mississippi River.
  2. The business was started in the USA by the German button manufacturer named John Frederick Boepple.
  3. The production reached its peak in 1905 at around 1.5 billion buttons!
  4. People used leftover shells to pave the streets of the town of Muscatine, Iowa.
  5. Easy to produce, shell buttons were used by pre-industrial cultures and through the Victorian era.

The Colors

You have probably seen mother of pearl buttons in any color. But natural nacre buttons come in colors like:

  • white,
  • gray,
  • beige,
  • pink,
  • black.

They vary in color as widely as the inner lining of the shells of molluscs. Some of them are shiny, some are dotted, some have a pink or blue undertone, some are rainbow-tinted. One might as well say there are no two identical mother of pearl buttons.


Mother of pearl buttons are differentiated by shape:

  • Round and square mother of pearl buttons feature а four-hole design and a two-hole design. They come flat or raised edged. Some of them boast engraved designs, such as flowers, stripes or coats of arms. We proudly offer round nacre buttons encrusted with rhinestones.

Diameter: 0.5 cm – 4 cm

  • Floral mother of pearl buttons have the shape of a flower. They might be adorned with filigree engraving and have a cut-out design.

Diameter: 2 cm – 4 cm

  • Mother of pearl shank buttons that feature a round shape are perfect for blouses. Ball-shaped nacre buttons are as stylish and elegant as gems.

Diameter: 0.8 cm – 1 cm

Application for Men and Women

Mother of pearl buttons are used for both menswear and women’s clothing.

Men typically buy mother of pearl buttons for a shirt, suit jacket, blazer, or sports coat. Most men’s shirts have 7 front buttons, two collar buttons and 2-4 sleeve buttons. Approximate size is 0.9 cm (3/8"). They are 0.35 cm thick. One set of buttons for men’s jacket has 3 large front buttons and 8 small sleeve buttons. Standard size: 20mm (large buttons), 15mm (small buttons).

Women choose nacre buttons for blouses, dresses, skirts, jackets, coats, cardigans, handicrafts and even jewellery-making. So the number and size of mother of pearl buttons one wants to buy depends on the project.

It is always better to be on the safe side. So buying a couple of extra buttons is a good idea.

How to Handle

When it comes to dry cleaning, nacre buttons might appear delicate and brittle. But their perishable qualities are greatly exaggerated. Taking care of mother of pearl buttons, one should simply avoid acid cleaners. Acids disintegrate calcium carbonate, which weakens the nacre structure. Make sure not to wash the garments with mother of pearl buttons in the washing machine. This reduces the risk of chipping and cracking buttons. ‘Handle with Care’, as they say.


How to spot a real mother of pearl button? If it feels gritty, it is real. So are all nacre button by Gritti, one of the most distinguished manufacturers of nacre buttons. This Italian brand uses raw material from Australia, Polynesia, Philippines, Indonesia and Madagascar water areas. One can see and feel the genuine authentic quality of Gritti goods.

Shop for exclusive mother of pearl buttons of any design, diameter and color by Gritti, Secondo Stefano Pavese, Bottonificio B.A.P. and Brochot at our website.

Mother of pearl button

Mother of pearl buttons, 14 € (17.10 US$) per one button;

Mother of pearl buttons

Mother of pearl buttons, 3.50 € (4.30 US$) per one button;

Mother of pearl button

Mother of pearl buttons, 33 € (41 US$) per one button;

Mother of pearl button

Mother of pearl buttons, 5.40 € (6.60 US$) per one button.

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