Cut Steels on Buttons
Cut steels on a button always indicate antique age which would be construction prior to 1918. There are simple domed, faceted cut steels that form the entire button and many that have cut steels as OME (other material embellishment). Some buttons are found with special shaped cut steels, these are highly sought by collectors looking to find as many unusual cut steel shapes as possible. There are "steel cup" buttons which generally do not look like a cup but have a steel base and rim and often feature cut steel OME (other material embellishment) on the face. A magnet comes in handy as steel is the only metal that will adhere to the magnet, other white metals will not. There are faux cut steel buttons which may be made of steel but do not feature a separately applied cut steel on a stem piece. Read comments with each image to learn more about identifying these types of antique buttons. Be careful cleaning cut steel buttons, those with an applied tint will lose tint easily when cleaned. Those showing rust may be cleaned but use the right tools. I won't get into cleaning here. This page is to study different buttons with cut steels. Use cloth gloves when handling cut steel buttons as skin oils and moisture can rust such buttons quickly. Comments? Click here to e-mail me:

Typical, commonly found cut steels button. Each cut steel is attached to a stem fit into openings in the base of the one-piece button then trimmed flat on the back. These are not marcasite button, marcasite has a gunmetal color, has a lot of sparkle and glimmer and are set in prongs or granular tiny pieces of metal near the stone. Marcasites in buttons are not common. This type of cut steel button is common and of low collector value. Handle your steel buttons with cloth gloves to avoid skin oils and moisture contacting the steel. Test with a magnet, steel sticks, other white metals will not. Don't clean or polish cut steels with a tint or you will remove the tint which cannot be restored. Let your buyer clean cut steel buttons.
Constructed like the first images but carrying a light green tint wash. Don't clean a button like this or you will lose the tint. You can see the cut steel "stem" coming thru the back better in this image than the first one.
This cut steel button is a step up in quality from those shown in the first images. Same type of construction. Notice the ends of the cut steel stem showing on the back of both the first three images and the two images of this fancier cut steel embellished button.
Here's a delightful antique brass button decorated with cut steels, separately applied forming a grapes cluster. This qualifies as "pictorial plant life" with collectors. It's a brass button with cut steel "OME" (other material embellishment) so it's a two-material button.

Now let's learn about look-alikes. This button features a cut-steel-look border which is simply stamped steel made to look like cut steels, notice there is no stem coming thru the border area when viewing button from the back.

Here's another button which carries only ONE cut steel right in the center, the rest of the button is stamped steel made to look like cut steels.

This button is not steel and does not carry cut steel trim, it is pressed pewter or white metal made to look like cut steel. Your magnet will not attach to this button.
This is a collectible antique stamped brass button featuring "shaped cut steel" OME. The steels are pinned thru the button on a small stem trimmed flush to the back and shaped like ducks. Look for unique shaped cut steel OME on buttons. Some to look for are, from more common to less are: star shapes, crescent moon, mirror glass look, window panes, lightning bolts and others!
Steel cup buttons are special. Few actually look like a "cup" but are rather flat. The whole back and slightly raised sides/top border are steel and there is always something else in the center, sometimes just tinted steel, brass or other materials in combination. Very often there are some cut steel embellishment like this pair of medium antique steel cup buttons have. The backs look very similar on all steel cup buttons and often you will see one or two pinned thru marks where the decorative elements were secured. Most often there is only one stem coming thru the back, visible right between the applied shank loop area.
Small steel cup with cut steels forming a central flower design. Each steel is separately applied with the stems hidden inside the back of the button. One stem comes thru the steel back of the button visible between the applied wire sewing loop shank.
This small steel cup has original tint and some special shaped cut steels.
Here's a pictorial (sailing ship) three material small steel cup button with a different back. It's steel, the border is stamped to resemble cut steels, the body has cut steels, shell background and gilt brass ship. This is a good pictorial steel cup button.
Another variety of steel cup button. You can see the stem from the center cut steel coming thru the back of the button quite well on this one.
There are many types of antique metal based buttons that feature cut steel embellishment. Here's an ornate type considered 3-materials including shell, cut steel (multi arm star shape) and tinted brass. Some oxidation has taken place so the "twinkle border" (shiny metal behind openwork) doesn't twinkle so much anymore. This construction and size is known as an Austrian Tiny button. Notice the back is domed, there's black japanning present (it's often worn off) and the sewing shank is thin wire loop. These are the earmarks of an Austrian Tiny button, many of which do carry cut steel decoration. Remember, cut steels will always spell an antique button.

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