5th January 2021

Buttons: Ceramics vs Pottery

Apparently the word ‘ceramic’ derives from the Greek ‘keramikos ‘meaning ‘of pottery’ or ‘for pottery’. Hence both words refer to objects made of clay and hardened by heat. In archeology, pottery is a form of ceramics, specifically clay containers (pots), with other articles referred to as ‘terracottas’. Others say that, technically, all non-metallic materials that are permanently hardened by heating, including glass and glazes, are ceramics.

To further complicate matters, there are 3 classes of pottery; earthenware, stoneware and porcelain, which differ in the temperature to which they are fired. Porcelain also differs in the mixture used; small amounts of glass, granite, and feldspar minerals are ground up with fine, white clay and then mixed with water.

So technically, buttons can be made of ceramics, but are not pottery, despite sometimes being called that.

The Age (Melbourne), 2nd January 1934 page 5.

The Sun (Sydney), 2nd June 1940 page 10. ” … the black frock trimmed with three little nigger boy pottery buttons … ” (Sorry. So incorrect!)

The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 6th April 1942 page 6.

The Mail (Adelaide), 4th December 1954, page 59.