We thought you might like to see just what that process looks like.
First up - these are the molds that are used to make the buttons. These are a "negative" version of the button, as these press into the glass to make the shape. These are the very same ones that have been in use for hundreds of years.
These are the presses - like giant tongs - the molds fit in the ends.
Make more sense now?
Meanwhile - they are heating up some glass. The take large canes of glass - about the thickness of a walking stick, and push the end into a furnace - so that the end gets hot and softens.
A work takes the metal shank, and places in one side of the mold,
And then takes the glass rod, with the glowing hot end, and the press, and presses the end of the glass rod, to make a single button.
He trims the still hot glass with a pair of shears, to release the button from the rod,
And then he can open the press and take out the button. The end of the glass rod goes back into the furnace to start to melt for the next button.
And here is the rough button shape (after cooling a bit!). There is more work to be done, however.
First up - gotta smooth those edges! A giant bank of grinding wheels comes into play here. The buttons are placed into a holding jig that holds them against the grinding wheels while the edges are smoothed off.
Next, finishing touches are applied, those gold and silver accents are added, for instance - by hand.
Or they are layered with a coating that is then fired in a small kiln, to get those amazing iridescent effects.
How awesome is that! Every time you wear one - you are wearing a piece of history, and someone's personal handiwork.
A huge thank you to Nirvana Beads - wholesaler and importer - for the permission to use these photos!