Ceramic is a term for all types of shaped and fired materials made from clay and other substances. Ceramics are subdivided , somewhat but not completely artificially, according to the materials used, the temperature to which they are fired, and their resultant appearance. Many famous ceramic/pottery firms included a range of buttons in their output.
The least hard /most breakable is referred to as earthernware. It may contain clay, quartz, kaolin and felspar. It is fired at low temperatures (1000-1150°C). The porous result requires glazing then refiring to be waterproof. Some very collectable buttons, including Satsumas from Japan, and Norfolk from America are classed as earthernware.
The next ‘grade’ of ceramic is known, due to its fired appearance, as stoneware. It is denser but still porous and is fired at 1000-1300°C. Hand-made stonewear buttons are made and advertised by potters on Etsy. They would be lovely for hand-knits or quilting. The famous jasperware plaques of Wedgewood, mounted in metal as buttons, are classed as stonewear.
Higher grade stoneware is referred to as porcelain. With the addition of powdered bone ash (which makes it less prone to chipping) it is called bone china. This is fired at high temperatures (1200-1450°C) and results in beautiful, translucent white ceramic. Fine china/porcelain buttons have been made since the late 18th century (as early as 1760) and their production spread across Europe within decades. The French in particular produced a lot of porcelain buttons. The small china “stencils” and “calicos” of the 20th century are porcelain.
Austrian born Anna Louise Alma who had moved to Sydney designed and made buttons. Her buttons were sold between 1947 to around 1957 in the ALA shop in Rowe Street.
Marie Gardner, Sydney
Marie ran her pottery from 1947 and produced commercial quantities of stoneware buttons of around 12 different designs but with multiple glazed finishes.