After using iron-mail (a metal staple that held two parts of a garment together) or never-ending stitches that were sewn and then unpicked each time an item of clothing was worn, rows of button finally appeared in the 14th century closing the arm of a shirt from elbow to cuff. Little by little, the button became an element of distinction (for women of the Court and on Navy and Army uniforms) before becoming a truly elaborate fashion object. The first mother-of-pearl buttons flourish in the 19th century appearing on the front section of Romantic shirts.
Shells are the buttons’ accomplices, their best friends. The mother-of-pearl that lines the inside of the shells is the button maker’s material of choice. The seashell that most commonly produces mother-of-pearl is the pearl oyster that makes the immaculate white nacre, used for the daywear buttons, and grey nacre for the eveningwear buttons. Equally the burgau produces a grey nacre, the troca a sandy beige hue and the clam shell (often referred to in vernacular French as la clovisse) also bears mother-of-pearl.