It is from this period that the greatest number of buckles has survived. The Lady Maufe collection at Kenwood House alone is comprised of 2,000 examples with hardly any exact duplicates in design. There is also an extensive collection of shoe buckles from this period in Northampton Museum along with the largest collection of boots and shoes in the country. Most of these survivals are from the period after 1760 until the 1790's after which date shoe buckles were for the most part replaced by ties. Of course the collections mostly consist of examples from the 'top-end' of the market, either having been saved for their precious metal content, their jewellery, or for their superior workmanship. Earlier examples are also rarer as buckles which had gone out of fashion or which were no longer required could be traded in for new. Because of the vast range of buckles in use during this period it would be impossible to describe every example in this article. I have however condensed the main points to aid in identification as follows:-
MATERIALS USED - gold and silver (plated from c1690), Sheffield plate (from 1742), pinchbeck (from 1733), pewter, tutania (from 1772), copper, brass, tin, iron, cut-steel (from the late-1760's), pottery, wood, and papier mache.
MANUFACTURE - cast throughout the period or from pressed metal using stamping machines (from 1769).
DECORATION - mould ornamented, engraved, enamelled, plated, gilded, set with precious or semi-precious stones and 'paste' jewels. Plain buckles particularly in base metals are found throughout the period. Jewelled buckles are solid-set until c1750. Thereafter the backs are opened to distinguish between the true stones and paste, which also became popular for quality buckles.
From 1730's - cast in more intricate and rococo designs with rosettes, twisted ropes, scrolls, beads, nailheads, and grooves.
From 1740's - tooling to suggest close-set faceted stones, some within milled edges.
From 1750's - increasingly elaborate rococo style - bold shouldered outlines with openwork patterns or scrolls.
From 1760's - faceted steel in imitation of jewels set in claws - becoming screw-in studs from 1770's.
From 1770's - large faceted embossments, twisted ribbon effects, tiny facets (bright cutting), large rectangular shapes with plain surfaces or with cut-out perforations.
MARKS ON SILVER - all hallmarked up to 1739. From 1740-1790 buckles weighing less than ten pennyweights were exempt from hallmarking. Makers' marks are still generally used and may be traced from existing records. From 1790 all silver buckles are fully hallmarked.
SHOE BUCKLE SHAPE AND SIZE - a general guide only as there are obviously some exceptions to the rules.
Square - under 2 inches are early-18th century, over 2 inches are after 1760.
Rectangular - 2-2½ long up to 1760, increasing to very large (up to 4 inches long) from the 1770's.
Oval to round - 2-3 inches are more common from the 1750's.
PLAIN SHOE BUCKLES - (no's 1-5)
Buckles with little or no decoration, particularly at the lower end of the market, are used throughout the period. Little else can be said about them other than the larger examples (no's 2 and 5) date from the second half of the 18th century.
DECORATED SHOE BUCKLES - (no's 6-25)
These can be sub-divided into square-cornered (no's 6-15), round cornered (no's 16-20), and openwork (no's 21-25). For dating purposes I have placed them into periods of thirty years based on evidence relating to shape, size, and style.
1700-1730 - numbers 6-8; 13.
1730-1760 - numbers 9-11; 14; 16-19; 21-22.
1760-1790 - numbers 12; 15; 20; 23-25.
Number 8 is iron and numbers 20 and 24 are silver.
ARTOIS SHOE BUCKLES - (no's 26-29)
These large rectangular and highly curved buckles date from the 1770's - 1790's. They are named after the Comte d'Artois who as French Ambassador to England introduced them into this country. They can be plain (no.26), decorated (no.27), or more commonly openwork (no's 28-29).
HAT, KNEE AND STOCK BUCKLES - (no's 30-43)
Generally these are less than half the size of shoe buckles and were rarely elaborately moulded. They could however be set with gems or engraved with ornamental devices. Unlike shoe buckles the spindle usually spans the length rather than the width of the frame. Numbers 30-36 may be hat or knee buckles. Hat buckles only became popular after 1770. Numbers 37-39 are knee buckles with anchor chapes. Numbers 40-41 have no chapes and this type may therefore have been used for garters. Numbers 42-43 with their multi-stud chapes and tongues are stock buckles. Both these examples are silver - number 42 from the 1760's and number 43 from 1778-1795.
1.   Catalogue of Shoe and Other Buckles in Northampton Museum - Northampton Museum - Swann J. 1981
2.   Georgian Shoe Buckles - Greater London Council - Hughes B. and T. 1972
3.   The English Shoe Buckle - Leemans Seel - Mould P. 1979
4.   The 18th century Shoe Buckle - in Five Artefact Studies edited by I. Noel Hume - Colonial Williamsburg Occasional
Papers, vol. 1 - Abbitt M.W. 1973
5.   Buckles Identified - Historic Publications - Webb J. 1981
6.   Artifacts of Colonial America - Noel Hume I.
7.   Georgian Shoe Buckles - Bilston Museum Exhibition Catalogue
8.   London Goldsmiths 1697-1837, their Marks and Lives - chapter on Bucklemakers 1773-1820 - Grimwade A.G.
9.   Old English Shoe Buckles - The Antique Collector, January 1934, vol.5:1 - Buckley F.
10. Some Notes on Small Antique Buckles - The Antique Collector, 1977 - Buckley F.