Handmade Solid Brass Belt Buckles
Classic timeless designs from the olden days
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We have added a few buckle designs over the last three decades, but more have gone by the wayside. We are posting this page for historical purposes, and in order for people who may have some of our older belt buckles to find out more about them. If you have and treasure one of David's buckles from long ago, please drop us a line to let us know by e-mail or on facebook or give us a call! We enjoy hearing back from buckle owners just as much we enjoy seeing the buckles still worn around town.
David's buckle designs mostly fall into two categories: collages and sawn designs. BCNs - Brass, Copper, and Nickel collages - date back to 1974, and have continued along similar design lines ever since, though David's brazing skills improved noticeably through the '70s. They have also remained his most popular buckle. In the sawn designs, one sheet of brass is sawn by hand with a jeweler's jigsaw, then brazed to a backing sheet, and the cut image is blackened with oxidizer. The classic design of this type is the Tree, and it has remained popular through four decades. Boats have also remained in production the whole time - every one unique, hand drawn and hand-cut - though their heyday was the late '70s and early '80s. From that era you will also see 'superboats' - squaresail fully rigged ships which make for very complex designs. When buckles were at their most popular, David's wife Barbara also worked sawing the designs, and came up with many of her own. For a long time David and Barbara made custom boat buckles, with the silhouette of the owner's actual boat. Some of these even had legends and boat names. Other older pierced designs include seagulls, sunsets, moon and star, and whales. We used to make buckles for narrow belts as well: ¾ and even ½ inch wide.
Since the beginning, David has stamped the back of his buckles with metal letter stamps, generally using them to form his monogram, DMB with the M large and the D and B lacing into it. There are variations, however. If you have a buckle that looks like it was made by David, it may have BD or DB on the back. These date from when Barbara was also working on the buckles in the late '70s and early '80s (before she returned to school to become a scientist and later a professor). There seems to be some inconsistency in the use of these stamps, but in general BD or DB indicates Barbara cut the buckle, while the first letter may indicate which person drew the design in the first place. In all cases, though, David will have assembled the piece.
In the 1970s, the buckles were generally not dated, but by 1981 David started dating his vases and at least some buckles with two digits to indicate the year. Again, this is with (smaller) hand stamps on the back. Dates may well have been inconsistent for a while in that period.
For a few years David had other employees, and in the late 1970s some of them worked on his buckles. One continued on with his own line of jewelry, including hand sawn buckles with the same manner of construction. His name is David Sieck. Most of David Sieck's designs are different from David Bowman's, but Sieck also - by agreement in advance - continued making sawn trees as well. His tree designs are definitely his own style, and the difference is obvious to us at a glance, but they remain the most easily confused style with the Bowman originals. David Sieck's buckles should be stamped on the back with just a D or possibly a DS.
More recent buckles may be stamped with DMB with a small S pendant from the bottom of the M. This stands for David M Bowman Studio, and is the same hallmark to be found on most of our vases. Since about 1995, it indicates that Reed did some part of the production. On buckles, this remains uncommon - since about 1983 they are normally all David's work, except for the Spine buckle, which is Reed's design, and is mostly made by Reed with the back structure applied by David. Those buckles are engraved on the back rather than stamped.
There are a few other styles of buckle from the olden days as well. There are plain brass buckles with the ground finish of most of David's buckles, but with a semiprecious stone cabochon set in a bezel applied to the surface. There are a few unique buckles of much more involved structure with stones set as well. These date from the early 1970s.
In the early 1980s David experimented for a while with etching buckles. He coated the buckles in asphaltum resist, then scratched designs into the resist - mostly trees - and etched these into the buckles. He made several of these in editions, but they were much more expensive than his ordinary designs, and he did not sell as many. Many of the editions have never technically been completed. Unlike most of David's buckles, the etched trees have a smooth polish over the rest of the surface rather than the characteristic ground surface.
There have been other experiments and some custom designs over the years as well that won't necessarily fit into the above categories, many of which are undocumented or only documented as sketches or old slides. Most should have their stamped hallmark on the back to identify them. We would be happy to hear about any that you see or may own out there in the world. Please drop us a line!
Designs copyright © 1972-2016 David M Bowman