Today I will discuss and show you how to wear one the rarest of costume jewelry cufflinks. The "finger prong" "flip clip"or, as I prefer to call them, clipbacks. Let's take a look at these unique cufflinks before we go any further. Here are some of my own finds over the years. They are definitely not an easy find. Scouring the internet, I only see only a few sets for sale. I have the moon and star set (above) available on my vintage cufflink shop as of the date of this posting (link at bottom of the post if you are interested in visiting).
It's hard to pin down much on these little works of art. I know they were mostly made mid to late 1800's. Some were manufactured by the TRADEMARK or TRADE MARK company. I have also found other cufflinks in a bean back style dating to the very early 1900's with the same TRADEMARK or TRADE MARK company stamp. I have purchased examples in Canada as well as the U.S.A. so, again, it is hard to say just where this company had its roots without further digging. I am also in possession of a set stamped IMP Pat Pend. I assumed this stood for Imperial Manufacturing Company but, they did not shorten their name and always used a symbol. Could these be Asian imports. Some type of British Imperial stamps? Still, I haven't seen examples for sale overseas. Below: You can barely see TRADEMARK under the clips. Sometimes, it is printed in two separate words TRADE MARK.
When looking for a stamp on these, it will always be on the back body itself. Sometimes it will give the name only. Sometimes the date only. Sometimes it will show nothing. Occasionally I have also just seen the prong itself stamped so do check as you may actually pin down a date for you cufflink. It's fun to know in case someone asks.
IMP PAT PEND Stamp
The next curiosity about these collectible cufflinks is the shape. For some unknown reason, they are nearly always square. They are almost always brass and, they almost always have an ornate frame around them. In all my years of looking for these, I have only found one exception to the rule. A round finger prong set stamped TRADEMARK. The set was a bit much for me to purchase in the day but it would have been a nice rare find. Every part of the cufflink was the same except for the fact it was round instead of square. It also had the 1886 date and, TRADEMARK stamp. What drew me to it other than the fact it was listed as antique? The outside frame. You guessed it, the same design in brass as some of the square ones.
After you get past the stereotypical square frame that always seems to accompany these, everything changes. Bear in mind these frames can also have no surround with just a flat surface (especially the round examples). Most frames will be a bit recessed in order to accept a small square insert. These were generally made of glass, or stone. Ones with flat tops (no recesses) generally had a raised design as do my pick and cart mining cufflinks (below). Still, they also can have inset stones. Others I have seen included flat tops with a fern or flower motif. One of the most elaborate pieces I had missed purchasing featured a spider theme. Indented metal frame with a raised spider complete with wire legs, wire web, and fly. So basically the square shape stays the same while the tops, or inserts, change. If you are really lucky, you find a round one in good condition....
-Tips On Purchasing-
I would like to add a small note on condition. These are very old cufflinks and you will be hard pressed to find a perfect example. So what should you look for when I find a set for sale? My first advice is check those photos closely. Enlarge them. Scrutinize for flaws. Obviously the tops and clips (when in closed position) should be in what you consider wearable condition. That includes dings or dents. Most brass can be cleaned up with metal polish that is available at any grocery store. Make sure you are not allergic prior to use and always wear safety accessories when cleaning. Use cotton swabs or paper towel, as you will use a rag up way too fast. Black tarnish is what should be coming off on your paper towel/cotton swabs. The most important part of these cufflinks are the backs. Make sure they have two clips on the back. You would be surprised at the ones I have seen for sale that had this fatal flaw and I almost didn't even notice. The clips will be either two small clips as seen below or, a small and a large clip (not shown). Point being, there have to be two. Next, are the clips bent? Again, I have seen sets for sale where one clip takes an unnatural turn simply because it has been unintentionally bent over. Imagine trying to get that one bent clip through your cuff's buttonhole, not to mention it will look like $*** as the prongs absolutely show during wear. The cufflink clips do have an intended curve to them but nothing excessive where the clip takes off to the left, right, or is bent in an L shape. Finally, do the clips work. Ask. Absolutely ask before purchasing. Some stickiness/tightness can be common, loose or floppy is not. And remember, both the clips and top will be showing on your shirt. I hope this helps in your selection. Check those photos carefully and enjoy this unusual, classic period, cufflink!
Enough with touting why I find these "obsessively interesting" and on to the best part. Wearing them. Simple and secure, they make one of the best cufflinks (in my opinion) made in the 1800's. Here we go....
STEP: 1 In the photo below, you can see the cufflink in the closed position. The next photo shows the clips in the raised position (just pull up on the clips). This is the position you will use to put on your finger prong, flip clip, clipback cufflinks.
STEP: 2 Bring all your shirt cuff holes together. Align them so you can slide the prongs straight through all the holes. Make sure the top part of the cufflinks are on outside of your cuff . Left cuff, top is left side. Right cuff, top is right side. You will always slide your prongs in towards your big belly (well, that's how it works for me anyway). Now slide the prong completely through all holes.
STEP: 3 Hold your cufflink top pinched to your cuff so that the prongs are well seated. At this point, you will simply push down on the clips to close them. Loosen the clips a bit if you want to adjust your cufflinks so the top design is where you want it. Reclose prongs. You are now ready to step out and get some compliments. Enjoy those finger prong, flip clip, clipbacks! Now say that three times fast.
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