Why Mother Of Pearl is the most Prestigious of Buttons

Why Mother Of Pearl is the most Prestigious of Buttons

Here we tell all on the wondrous naturally occurring material and why it is perfect for button making.  

When it comes to shirt buttons, the layman may not consider what material they are made of. You may have a vague notion that they are often pearly and perhaps you have heard the term Mother of Pearl. Unless you are a jewellery maker, crafter or button extraordinaire you likely won't know too much about the differentiations between the various types and where it comes from. 

Here we tell all on the wondrous naturally occurring material and why it is perfect for button making.  

So, the first thing to iron out is that Mother of Pearl (MOP) and Pearl are two different things. Furthermore, MOP can be further segmented into MOP shells and also an ‘effect’ found on many types of shell. You can see instantly how this may cause confusion. 


MOP is otherwise known as Nacre (pronounced - NAC-ER), which is the same substance a pearl is created from but a different end product. It can be found in a range of different shells from Mollusks to Oysters, Abalone and Snail Shells. Farmed from North America to Mexico and across the Pacific to India, Japan and Australia. Different types of shell offer a range of qualities and appearances. 

Formed as part of an evolutionary defence mechanism developed by the sea creatures from which they are derived to protect against parasites invading their shells. Nacre is a blend of minerals, predominately Aragonite crystals, that are secreted in the layers of the shell. It is light striking those crystalline layers from both sides that gives the shimmering iridescent, almost magical appearance.  


Examples of the material being used in craftmanship goes back centuries. It can be seen in furniture making, elegant cases and trunks and pulpits and doors that have been displayed in Mosques and palaces as far back as the Ottoman Empire. It has been used historically in beautifully elaborate inlays for high end watches, jewellery and musical instruments.  However, it was only at the turn of the 19th century its use for button making became prevalent. 

It was a German Businessman and button manufacturer that initiated the mass production of them for button making, where he utilised the contents of the Mississippi river to he’s advantage. At its peak his company produced 1.5 billion buttons a year! In the decades since we have seen mass farming of freshwater pearls occur in America, Asia and Australia alike.  


Its imitable elegance makes it perfect for button making - though watch out for fakes, there’s plenty around. A good way to tell is by sound – if you give it a flick, a real MOP button should make a high pinging sound, a fake would make a dull tap. Real MOP is uneven in texture and colour and will be different on both sides of a button, imitation ones will be more uniform. An imitation MOP button isn't the worst, many shirtmakers use them as standard – you just should know what you are getting.  

At W H Taylor Shirtmakers we strive to offer our customers the very best in bespoke tailored shirting. From our Heritage fabric selections and traditional design and finishing processes, to our uniquely wide array of bespoke options available. By offering a range of button options we add to the unique taste of our customers as well as an enhanced shopping experience.

MOP is most certainly regarded as the Rolls Royce of buttons, however for some imitation MOP is fine, whatever your preference W H Taylor Shirtmakers has an option for you.  



While the material appears delicate due to its opalescence it is in fact a very hardy and resilient material. That being said, I'm sure most naturally derived materials would find being spun in a modern-day washing machine a perilous journey – the tiny round shaped buttons may become ensnared in the machine or break so make sure to follow washing instructions carefully, if in doubt in a pillowcase on a low temp is your best option.   



Retour au blog

Laisser un commentaire

Veuillez noter que les commentaires doivent être approuvés avant d'être publiés.