Metal detector finds:
Queries often come through to the Victorian Button Collectors Club, and also to this blog about the identity of “unearthed” buttons. I found an article from 1999 about buttons found at archeology sites, by Jennie Lindberg, that is relevant.
In the article she states that the oldest button types found on Australian sites are bone sew-throughs and blanks (for covering with thread or fabric), pinshanked buttons of bone or mother-of-pearl, and metal rings (as used as the base for Dorset as similar buttons). She also mentions porcelain buttons, which became common in the 1840s, glass buttons, pressed horn, and metal coat and trouser buttons. Metal trouser/braces buttons may date from the late 18th century. “They … often bear generic slogans such as ‘Our Own Make’, ‘Best Ring Edge’, ‘Excelsior’, etc.” Remnants of fabric covered copper alloy buttons may be found dating from the mid 19th century.
She cautions that it can be hard to identify what a button was used for as they are used for such a wide variety of clothing and other items such as pillow-slips and even toys. Also, delicate and ornate buttons that appear feminine may have come from men’s waistcoats.
To read the article yourself, see http://www.asha.org.au/pdf/australasian_historical_archaeology/17_04_Lindbergh.pdf
Please note that these trouser buttons are also found overseas. They may have come from a button manufacturing centre such as Birmingham. The same generic terms may have been used in more than one era and by more than one maker. These buttons are not valuable, but they are certainly interesting.
In Trove ( archived Australian newspapers etc):
It is often claimed online that ‘Best Ring Edge‘ buttons date from late 19th to early 20th century, and this was backed up by a newspaper story in Trove dated 1897 of a child wearing these buttons.
‘Excelsior’ trouser buttons were advertised in Australia circa 1893- 1896.
‘Double Ring Edge’ are mentioned in 1866. They are found on trousers in a museum from the late 19th century.
‘Our Own Make’ buttons are mentioned from 1892 through to 1930s.
“Best Solid Eyelet” buttons are found on a 1890s uniform, as are “Four Holes Improved”.