Box with a set of buttons, anonymous, c. 1800 - c. 1820
Men often had a set of matching buttons: large ones for a coat, small ones for a waistcoat. In the early 19th century Europe was gripped by the Napoleonic wars. Citizens had to hand over their gold and silver – jewellery included – to finance them. Out of necessity, steel became a popular material for jewels and buttons. It could be polished to a high shine.