Buttons aren't just useful for fastening clothes together. They are decorative items in their own right and the number and variety seems infinite. They first became important in the Middle Ages when flowing robes gave way to close-fitting garments for the first time. Buttons were used to pull the fabric together into the desired shape. As time went by,the quantity,quality and design of buttons became a status symbol for the wearer. There were buttons of gold, silver, ivory and enamel, hand-painted buttons and buttons of diamonds, emeralds and rubies. Debts could be paid by snipping a precious button from a garment, and it is said that when Henry VIII met Francis I of France in 1520, they were wearing 26,000 buttons between them, each with its own buttonhole.
It is said that the origin of sleeve buttons goes back to Napoloeonic times, when they were used as a means of discouraging soldiers from wiping their noses on their sleeves !