The making of a silver belt buckle

This is the story of a silver belt buckle, commissioned a few years back by a cigar aficionado. A good creative challenge, from both a design and a technical point of view.


First step, mechanics.

I needed to understand how the belt buckles work. A quick research showed a variety of mechanisms, on the face of it; but fundamentally they amounted to the same idea: a hinge hoop (which holds the belt) and a button (which goes through a hole of the belt). So I knew what type of mechanism I had to design. The dimensions and distances needed to be worked out by some trial and error.


Next step, design.

My brief was to take inspiration from Cuban cigar labels. This wasn’t a subject I knew a lot about. Enter visual research phase. Cigar labels are really interesting little pieces of design. Like wine labels, they convey a rich heritage. Most are quite ornate, reflecting the origin of the house.

Some of the cigar labels I discovered in the exploration phase. Some guided my design subliminally, some more overtly. 

I shortlisted labels which I felt had potential as a departure point. I wanted to take inspiration, allude to the original designs, not produce a straight copy. We went through the shortlist with my client and decided on what sort of motifs were appealing. From there on, I could finalise the design.


Final step, manufacture.

This proved a tad challenging, due to the sheer size of silver I was working with. It had to be robust, so at least 2mm thick. This made shaping and soldering a bit harder than usual: I wanted the buckle slightly curved, and there were about 9 points of soldering. 

The front: the background of the plate was deliberately distressed at slightly oxidised, leaving the relief motifs highly polished for contrast.

The back: a minimal loop, in rounded rectangle shape, to put the leather through; and a button to go through the belt hole.

I've made a couple more buckles after this, inaugural one, both to order. This isn't a product I would consider for normal collections. But if you're intersted in your very own customised buckle drop me a line. I love a challenge!