The buttons are from a set for a man's waistcoat. This would have been worn under a matching formal coat with larger buttons of the same design.
The Staffordshire potter Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) sold small quantities of steel-mounted Jasper medallions in his London showrooms, but the majority were mounted and sold by others. According to his catalogue of 1779, the price of cameos with 'several Figures' was 'ten Times less than any other durable Imitations that have ever been made in Europe'.
Materials & Making
Steel was relatively inexpensive, but the labour-intensive facetting on the best cut-steel work made it costly. The cut-steel mounts on Wedgwood's Jasper are often attributed to the great Birmingham industrialist Matthew Boulton (1728-1809), a friend and rival of Wedgwood's. In 1786 Wedgwood wrote to explain to him that 'I have left a few sets of my cameo buttons to be mounted, & shall be glad to increase our connection in this way, as well as selling you cameos for your trade, as in having them mounted by you for mine, both in gilt metal & steel'. Wedgwood also supplied Jasper for mounting to Green & Vale of Birmingham and Vernon & Hasselwood of Wolverhampton. Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Woodstock were chief centres for cut-steel.