Most of our mother of pearl buttons come from Italy, Portugal, and Japan.
But at one time, a town in Iowa was the pearl button capital of the world!
From Atlas Obscura:
"Muscatine’s pearl button industry hit its peak between 1908 and the ’20s, when factories in the Iowa town produced 1.5 billion buttons, or one-third of the world’s pearl button supply. These buttons were worth $3.3 million, according to the 1910 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica. But few of us who grew up along the Mississippi, who’ve held those milkweed-grey shells with holes in them, have actually held pearl buttons or heard a cohesive origin story about the industry. To get the definitive history I went to Terry Eagle, the Director of The National Pearl Button Museum at The History and Industry Center, in Muscatine. “The story of the pearl button is a national growth story, a national treasure story, and an environmental lesson,” Eagle says. “And if you don’t believe me now, I’ll prove it to you.”"
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