A few weeks ago, I was reading a Western theme magazine and found an ad for Concho Buttons (www. ButtonBird.com). I looked at the site and have ordered several times from it. It’s online sales only and has many different types of buttons as well as conchos and some lovely fabrics.
Conchos come from the Mexican vaquero tradition and served both a decorative and utilitarian role on western saddles. They are metal discs and originally had two slits in them to allow saddle strings to pass through to secure the saddle’s skirts. Most are silver in color, made from sterling silver or more commonly today, from Nickel silver. This is an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc, silver in color but contains no elemental silver. It’s also called German silver from its development by German metalworkers.
In the nineteenth century, particularly after 1868, North American Plains Indian jewelers were able to easily acquire sheets of German silver. They used them to cut, stamp and cold hammer a wide range of accessories and also horse gear. Presently, plains metalsmiths use German silver for pendants, bracelets, armbands, earrings, belt buckles and conchos or oval decorative plates for belts and purses. Conchos don’t always need slits in them so they are solid discs. Navajo and Pueblo silversmiths are famous today for their silver belts and jewelry using conchos as well as decorative horse wear.
The larger conchos on my card have a post and screw to attach them. The concho buttons have a metal loop, sometimes two loops, to fasten them to a garment or other item. There are many sites online selling both styles and since I have a number of bridle rosettes and horse brasses already, I thought “why not?” And yes, my husband has two horses in the pasture below our house.