China is porcelain is china. This ceramic material was developed in China from 1600 – 1046 BC. When it came to be exported to Europe in the 16th century, it became known as “china”. It is possible that the French/Italian term “porcelain” came into use to distinguish European made products from the Chinese made.
In terms of buttons, it seems to be a dated term, used mainly the early 20th century, but as early as the mid 19th century and as late as the 1950s.
Melbourne Punch, 15th August 1889 page 13.
The Prahran Telegraph (Vic), 16th January 1909 page 6.
Examiner (Launceston), 12th August 1924 page 7. A black and white satin dress with china buttons.
White china buckle and china button with dog head.
Marigold china buckle.
Australian Women’s Weekly, 2nd October 1937 page 25.
The Telegraph (Brisbane), 16th March 1938 page 5.
The Sun (Sydney), 21st April 1946 page 10. Blue and white china zebra buttons on a blue suit.
The Mail (Adelaide), 7th July 1951 page 36. A checked tan angora jersey dress with big brown china buttons.
Warwick Daily News (Qld) 17th June 1946 page 3.