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In the 1790s, a taste for large, luminescent disks made of exotic materials such as shell or stone superseded the earlier fashion for modest-sized buttons of metal or fabric. Such buttons were employed on fashionable outerwear for women, including great coats and riding habits, as well as men's coats. This set of three pink conch shell buttons with silver-plated bosses was among a larger set owned by George or Martha Washington. The expensive fasteners were later given to friends and family as relics of the venerable couple.


Pink conch shell button with silver-plated copper alloy boss at center; smooth pink and white surface of the shell on obverse; dull white surface of the shell on reverse, except in areas where the dull white has been carved away to expose the pink surface; loop shank of copper alloy metal.


c. 1789-1797



Conch shell, silver, copper alloy


Overall (H x W): 5/8 in. x 1 5/16 in. (1.6 cm x 3.33 cm)

Credit Line

Purchase, 1956

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

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