The Thaya river has provided a habitat for mother-of-pearl shells for centuries. These have a preference for cool bodies of water with low lime, low sediment, and high oxygen. Their colourful and iridescent inner surfaces have fascinated humans for ages. Once processed into buttons, mother-of-pearl decorates shirts and blouses. A whole cottage industry dedicated to mother-of-pearl developed in the 19th century along the Thaya.
Farmers fished the mother-of-pearl mussels, and they were processed into buttons in turneries. However, after the Second World War the production conditions changed. The mother-of-pearl buttons were replaced by artificial materials. Hence the production of this precious commodity became less and less profitable. Today there is only a single business left, in the village of Felling (Hardegg region), that continues to cultivate this craft. The mother-of-pearl manufacture began in 1911 in Felling with six employees.
The cowshed was transformed into a workshop, and the kitchen was used for dyeing. As of 1952 there was no longer a sufficient supply of mussels left in the Thaya, thus they had to be imported. After a new start that was initially marked by crisis, the manufacturing operation began to flourish again in the 1970s. Today the manufacture enjoys success, with its mother-of-pearl button production sold to top fashion brands and shirt producers. Nine out of ten buttons produced in Felling are exported.