In the 18th century, buckles were one of the most fashionable elements of any outfit. They were worn on shoes, breeches, sashes, belts, cravats, and even hats. Both men and women wore them, and it is estimated that 2.5 million were manufactured each year. Due to their high usage very few items remain, especially those in good condition.
Silver was too soft for everyday use, so most buckles had steel pins and fittings and only the mounts were silver. This allows some examples to remain in a decent condition, even today. Victorian and Edwardian belt buckles are popular collectors’ items. They can even still be used, as silver belt buckles are a traditional element of a nurse’s uniform.
A common design feature of these buckles was significant faceting across the buckle to give the impression of gemstones being set in the buckle. Some late 19th century examples were highly ornate in their designs. Art Nouveau patterns were frequently featured, including floral elements and images of ladies with long, flowing hair, typical of the Art Nouveau style.