Title:
BUCKLE AND BUCKLE-STRAP ASSEMBLY
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A buckle that is a single piece, glass buckle is provided. A single piece, glass buckle is provided that is designed to limit the likelihood of breakage during use. The buckle may be of any desired shape or design, including coloration and other design effects, wherein all aspects are part of the continuous, single piece, glass buckle. A belt assembly with a strap or similar device designed to be used with the single piece, glass buckle to provide maximum stability to all aspects of the single piece, glass buckle. A belt assembly is provided that may be used in a functional capacity or as a fashion accessory.



Inventors:
Rotunno Jr., Gerald (Wanaque, NJ, US)
Application Number:
12/334107
Publication Date:
06/18/2009
Filing Date:
12/12/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
24/163K, 24/198
International Classes:
A44B11/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
DO, ROWLAND
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GERALD ROTUNNO, JR (SUMMIT, NJ, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A buckle comprising a single piece, glass buckle having a main body, a strap bar located on a back portion of the main body, and at least one spike located on the back portion of the main body.

2. The buckle of claim 1, wherein the single piece, glass buckle comprises a borosilicate family or a soda-lime family of glass.

3. The buckle of claim 1, wherein the strap bar is positioned at a distance of at least one and one-half inches from the at least one spike.

4. The buckle of claim 1, wherein the strap bar extends from the back portion of the main body by a continuous connection of at least two base stems having different points of origin on the back portion of the main body, wherein the at least two base stems are in association with each other through a length of bar, thereby forming a continuous connection between the strap bar and the back portion of the main body.

5. The buckle of claim 4, wherein the at least two base stems of the strap bar are angled away from the spike, and wherein the angle is formed by curving or angling the at least two base stems of the strap bar.

6. The buckle of claim 5, wherein said angle that is formed between the main body of the buckle and the at least two base stems is 30 to 80 degrees, preferably 45-70 degrees, and most preferably 50-60 degrees.

7. The buckle of claim 5, wherein the length of bar is parallel to the back portion of the main body and forms a passage area that is at a distance away from the back portion that is at least two times the thickness of a strap to be used there with.

8. The buckle of claim 1, wherein the at least one spike is in a continuous connection with the main body, and comprises a broad base, a shaft extended from the base in a direction away from the main body, and a tip.

9. The buckle of claim 8, wherein the broad base is in continuous connection with the main body.

10. The buckle of claim 8, wherein the shaft has a smaller diameter than the broad base.

11. The buckle of claim 8, wherein the at least one spike comprises a tip for insertion through a passage in a strap.

12. The buckle of claim 11, wherein the tip is broader than the shaft.

13. The buckle of claim 12, wherein the tip is bulbous, diamond-shaped, ridged, toothed, or lipped.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/996,960 filed Dec. 12, 2007, which is incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates generally to belt buckles.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Belts and belt buckles are well-known and long-time fashion accessories. As is well-known, one common use of a belt is to secure clothing about a user's waist with a buckle. Buckles are devices that secure the two ends of the belt, or strap, together. Generally, the buckle is secured to one end of the belt, and the other end of the belt may be secured to the buckle in a variable manner. Commonly, the other end of the belt has holes along a portion of the belt length that allow a prong of the buckle to secure to the belt at differing lengths. In this manner, the belt may encircle the person's waist and accommodate girth of the waist, which may vary somewhat on a particular day, and between particular people. A new belt may be required if a particular person's waist increases or decreases over time by more than the amount that may be accommodated by the second end of the belt. The same buckle may be used in certain instances where the buckle is removable from the belt. In certain other cases, however, the buckle and belt are permanently affixed, and thus a new belt and buckle may be required.

Buckles, while widely used for belts and the like, may also be used as decorative ornaments for numerous other articles of clothing, such as, for example, shoes, shirts, and pants. Furthermore, buckles may be integrated directly into the waist of a pair of pants, skirt, or dress, with the articles of clothing having integrated straps that may be adjusted using the buckle.

As mentioned, belts and/or associated buckles may be used as a fashion accessory. In many cases, it is desirable to match a certain belt and/or buckle to a particular clothing ensemble being worn by the person. In these cases, the person often desires to have ornamentation on the belt and/or buckle that may complement the other articles of clothing being worn by the person. Such ornamentation may include, for example, attached decorative articles, gemstones, designs, and different colors associated with the belt and/or buckle.

Belt buckles as fashion accessories has increased in popularity over the past five years. As accessories, many variations of common belt buckles are marketed with the hopes that the variations will increase or maintain interest in the belt buckles as an accessory.

The western style belt buckle is a mainstay in the market of belt buckles. Western style belt buckles, as with many other styles of belt buckles, are typically of the same structure with a varied theme embossed or imprinted into the particular metal used for making the belt buckle. Some belt buckles allow for one belt buckle to have interchangeable parts, i.e., facings of different compositions with different effects or designs, to be inserted in a hold on the face of the buckle. Although this type of belt buckle is appealing to the wearer, the fact remains that the belt buckle is still one of a metal design or one of mixed components such as metal and plastic, and the desire to be unique in accessorizing may not be completely fulfilled.

Another variation of common belt buckles is where the same or similar metal belt buckle has various materials adhered or fused thereto. Again, this is the same or similar approach attempting to provide unique or individual expression through accessories based on the same belt buckle structure. There is a need for a truly unique structure and style of belt buckle for those persons who want fashion to speak for their personal character and individualism.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention recognizes that it would be desirable to have a single piece, glass buckle that may include multiple different ornamental configurations. The present invention also recognizes that it would be desirable to have a belt system, including a belt strap and a single piece, glass buckle that expresses true uniqueness of a belt buckle as an accessory.

In one embodiment, the present invention provides a belt buckle system, having a single piece, glass buckle having a main body with a front portion and a back portion, a strap bar located on a back portion of the main body for securing the belt strap to the single piece, glass buckle, and at least one spike located on the back portion of the main body for securing the belt strap.

The present invention provides a single piece, glass buckle made from a soda-lime family or a borosilicate family of glass. In a preferred embodiment, the present invention provides a single piece, glass buckle made from soft glass from the soda-lime family.

In another embodiment, the present invention provides a single piece, glass buckle with a strap bar and at least one spike operably spaced to provide maximum stability to the single piece, glass buckle when worn with a belt strap.

In another embodiment, the present invention provides a single piece, glass buckle with a strap bar operably angled away from the direction of the spike, thereby allowing the single piece, glass buckle to be positioned flat with the respect to the belt strap when worn around a desired part of the body. In a preferred embodiment, the strap bar is positioned by angling the base stems of the strap bar, which form a continuous connection between the strap bar and the back portion of the main body of the buckle.

In another embodiment, the present invention provides a single piece, glass buckle with a strap bar that is continuously connected to the main body, wherein the strap bar provides a passage area having a distance from the back portion of the main body of the buckle to allow for at least two times the thickness of the belt strap to fit through.

In another embodiment, the present invention provides a single piece, glass buckle having a spike with a broad base that is continuously connected to the main body, wherein the spike has a tip with a larger diameter than the shaft of the spike. In another embodiment, the tip can be bulbous, diamond-shaped, ridged, toothed, or lipped, thereby allowing the tip to be securely fastened through a hole in a belt strap.

In another embodiment, the present invention provides a single piece, glass buckle that may be clear, near clear, a single color, a mixture of colors, or combinations thereof.

In another embodiment, the present invention provides a single piece, glass buckle that may be of varying shapes, sizes and/or weights.

In another embodiment, the present invention provides a single piece, glass buckle where the strap bar is positioned on the left of side of the buckle for attachment of a belt strap, or where the strap bar is positioned on the right side of the buckle for attachment of a belt strap.

In another embodiment, the present invention provides a single piece, glass buckle made from molded glass methods or from blown glass methods. In a preferred embodiment, the present invention provides a single piece, glass buckle made from molded glass methods. In an alternative method, the present invention provides for a glass buckle created from blown glass.

In another embodiment, the present invention provides a belt system that may use a belt strap that is provided with a means for securely attaching to the strap bar of the single piece, glass buckle.

In another embodiment, the present invention provides a belt system that has a single piece, glass buckle, as described herein, and a belt strap, wherein the belt strap may have holes positioned in a manner to receive a spike, as described herein, and wherein the holes are shaped to accommodate a particularly shaped spike tip as described herein.

Additional features, advantages, and embodiments of the invention may be set forth or apparent from consideration of the following detailed description, drawings, and claims. Moreover, it is to be understood that both the foregoing summary of the invention and the following detailed description are exemplary and intended to provide further explanation without limiting the scope of the invention as claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a belt buckle according to the principles of the invention; 1A is a flat, side view, 1B is a flat view of a strap bar end portion, and 1C is a flat view of a spike end portion;

FIG. 2 is a flat, side view of a belt buckle according to the principles of the invention;

FIG. 3 is a facing view of a belt strap according to the principles of the invention;

FIG. 4 is a facing view of a belt strap according to the principles of the invention;

FIG. 5 is a facing view of a belt strap according to the principles of the invention;

FIG. 6 is a facing view of a belt strap according to the principles of the invention;

FIG. 7 is a back view of a belt buckle and belt strap in association with each other according to the principles of the invention;

FIG. 8 is a back view of a belt buckle and belt strap in association with each other according to the principles of the invention;

FIG. 9 is a flat, side view of a belt buckle according to the principles of the invention; and

FIG. 10 is a flat, side view of a buckle according to the principles of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A basic structural form of a single piece, glass belt buckle 100 is illustrated in FIG. 1. Main body 110 has back portion 112 that has spike 120, and strap bar 130. Main body 110 has front portion 114 that is viewable when buckle 100 is worn with a belt strap or similar device. The shape of main body 110 may vary depending on the desired artistic design, including but not limited to, a heart, tear drop, skull, cloud, animal, and natural formations. The overall coloration of main body 110 may vary as well, depending on the desired affect of the design. Variations in color can be determined prior to or after the manufacturing process, and can be accomplished by methods and materials known to one of skill in the art.

Spike 120 is in continuous connection with back portion 112. Spike 120 has tip 122, shaft 124 and broad base 126. Tip 122 is broader in diameter than shaft 124 and is designed for insertion through a passage hole in a strap or similar device. Unexpectedly, it was found that making tip 122 broader relieved pressures on spike 120 when inserting through a passage hole in a strap, thereby reducing the likelihood of breakage during use. Additionally, broad base 126 has a greater diameter than shaft 124. Surprisingly, this design also adds stability to spike 120 while buckle 100 is in use. Having narrower shaft 124 allows spike 120 to operably mate with a belt strap, wherein the material of the strap will rest securely on the narrower portion of spike 120 when inserted through a passage hole in the strap. This design inhibits slippage of the strap off spike 120. Surprisingly, it was found that spike 120 allows for the spike 120 end of buckle 100 to lay substantially flat against the surface of a belt strap or similar device when in use, thereby aiding in preventing buckle 100 from protruding away from the surface of the belt strap or similar device and reducing the likelihood of breakage during use.

Alternatively, there may be more than one spike 120 on buckle 100, thereby providing even more stability to buckle 100 while in use. Generally, when there is more than one spike 120, the strap or similar device will require a corresponding number of passage holes to allow for adequate mating to ensure buckle 100 securely fastens.

Spike 120 may generally be perpendicular to back portion 112, or spike 120 may be angled toward the center of back portion 112. Spike 120 may have an angle from 90 degrees perpendicular to about 45 degrees angled toward the center of back portion 112; more preferably 90 to about 60 degrees, most preferably 90 to about 80 degrees.

Generally, tip 122 may be any shape, such as bulbous, diamond, ridged, toothed, lipped, or other shape that permits tip 122 to be broader in diameter than shaft 124, while remaining operable for insertion into a passage hole in a strap or similar device. Tip 222 (FIG. 2) shows one variation of tip design. Again, tip 222 design permits a diameter that is broader than shaft 224, thereby maintaining stability within the integral structure of the single piece, belt buckle, while relieving unwanted pressure on tip 222 when inserting tip 222 into a passage hole in a strap or similar device. It should be noted that although the design/shape of general tip 122 may vary, the quantity of spikes 120 can be one or more.

Generally, buckle 100 has strap bar 130 that is in continuous connection with back portion 112. Strap bar 130 may be positioned at the end of back portion 112 or further in on back portion 112. Strap bar 130 has bar 132 and at least two base stems 134. Base stem 134 is a continuous portion of the main body, wherein base stem 134 extends from back portion 112 and continues from the broader base to a narrower neck that curves to form the beginning of bar 132. Each base stem 134 has a different point of origin at a given distance from any other base stem 134. Preferably, one base stem 134 is at a position toward side 116a of main body 110 and another base stem 134 is at a position toward side 116b of main body 110. This allows for even support and stability for bar 132 as bar 132 extends from each base stem 134 to form a continuous strap bar 130. Strap bar 130 is designed for securely engaging one end of a belt strap or similar device. Alternatively, strap bar 130 may have more than two base stems 134. (FIG. 8) Additional base stems 134, as in FIG. 8, adds to the overall stability of strap bar 130.

Generally, strap bar 130 is angled or curved away from the center of buckle 100, and more specifically it is angled or curved away from spike 120. (FIG. 1A) The angle of base stems 134 is from about 30 to about 80 degrees, preferably about 45 to about 70 degrees, and most preferably from about 50 to about 60 degrees. This angling effect unexpectedly created a stronger and more stable strap bar 130 by reducing pressures on strap bar 130, thereby reducing the likelihood of breakage during use. This was in contrast to having strap bar 130 angles greater than about 80 degrees. By giving strap bar 130 an angled effect, it was also found that back portion 112 laid substantially flatter against the belt strap or similar device used in conjunction with buckle 100, thereby reducing the likelihood of breakage during use since buckle 100 did not protrude outward. This was true regardless of the shape or design of buckle 100.

The length of bar 132 depends on the distance between the points of origin of base stems 134 and should be at least long enough to compensate for the width of a belt strap or similar device passing between base stems 134. Additionally, the height of bar 132 is dependent on the style, type and thickness of the belt strap or similar device to be used in conjunction with buckle 100. The height of bar 132 from back portion 112 should be sufficient enough to accommodate two times the thickness of the belt strap or similar device used in conjunction with buckle 100. This is especially necessary in situations where there is an excess length of belt strap or similar devices after spike 120 is inserted through a passage hole of a belt strap or similar device. Therefore, a belt strap or similar device can be securely engaged with bar 132 with enough clearance remaining in the height of bar 132 from back portion 112 to permit passage of any excess length of belt strap or similar device between base stems 134.

Spike 120 and strap bar 130 are generally located at opposing ends of buckle 100, as seen in FIGS. 1A-C. Alternatively, the location of spike 120 and strap bar 130 may vary depending on the style, shape or design of buckle 100. Therefore, one of skill in the art would realize that both spike 120 and strap bar 130 may be located at the further most ends of buckle 100, or either both or one can be moved closer to the center of back portion 112. As a non-limiting example, buckle 100 may be designed to be used with a strap or similar device attached to buckle 100 from the left (i.e., with strap bar 130 on the left side of buckle 100) or vice versa. The location of spike 120 and strap bar 130 will depend on the desired buckle 100. Regardless of the location of spike 120 and strap 130, the distance between them must be at least one and one-half inches. Surprisingly, this distance provides added structural support and stability at least by distributing pressures across spike 120 and strap bar 130 sufficient enough to reduce the likelihood of breakage during use.

As described herein, the design of buckle 100 shows advantages of the structural aspects, wherein spike 120 is designed to maximize stability while in use and permitting the spike 120 end of buckle 100 to lay substantially flatter relative to the belt strap or similar device while in use. Additionally, strap bar 130 is designed to maximize stability while in use and permitting the strap bar 130 end of buckle 100 to lay substantially flatter relative to the belt strap or similar device while in use. Spike 120 and strap bar 130 work to efficiently distribute pressures across buckle 100 to aid at least in reducing the likelihood of breakage during use.

Belt straps to be used with buckle 100 of the present invention are illustrated in FIGS. 3-6. While they are illustrative of straps to be used with buckle 100, the straps are not limited to these specific illustrations. One of skill in the art will appreciate that the belts straps or similar devices of the present invention may be made of any material commonly known in the art and other potential materials that can be suitably utilized as belt straps or similar devices. Such materials include, but are not limited to, leather, plastic, canvas, elastic or other synthetic fiber-based materials, and various metals, to name a few. Strap 300 shows a strap with passage hole 310 through which spike 120 will pass to secure the buckle. Strap 400 shows passage hole 410. Passage holes 310 and 410 are examples of passage holes that are intended within the scope of the present invention. The design of passage holes will be determined by the shape and design of tip 122. The design of passage holes should be made to accommodate tip 122 and to limit added pressures on tip 122 while in use. The design should be such that a passage hole, such as 310 or 410, would only engage tip 122 in as much is necessary to ensure secure passage of tip 122 through the passage hole. By doing so, pressure on tip 122 is minimized and the likelihood of breakage is reduced. All passage holes are situated to permit for desired adjustments by the wearer. One of skill in the art will appreciate the need for multiple, sequential passage holes in a belt strap or similar device.

In situations where more than one spike 120 is desired, the belt strap or similar device should be made to accommodate the spikes. (FIG. 5 and 6) Strap 500 and strap 600 illustrate examples where there are two spikes 120, therefore, two passage holes 510 and 610 are required in a linear relation, perpendicular to the long axis of straps 500 and 600.

A strap and buckle assembly can be seen in FIG. 7. Strap 300 has snap disc receiver 710 and snap disc 720. Snap disc receiver 710 and snap disc 720 are otherwise known as snaps, poppers, and press studs, wherein the two pieces are a pair of interlocking discs commonly used in place of buttons to fasten clothing. Strap 300 operably interacts with buckle 100 by being inserted under strap bar 130, wherein the end of strap 300 passes only so far as to permit snap discs 720 to just pass strap bar 130. This allows strap 300 to be folded back and over strap bar 130, where upon snap discs 720 are operably mated with snap disc receivers 710 to secure strap 300 about strap bar 130. While snap disc receiver 710 and snap disc 720 are illustrated herein, one of skill in the art will readily see that strap 300, and other straps described herein, can be secured about strap bar 130 by other means including, but not limited to, adhesion, stitching, binding, or by other forms of buttons. This aspect is applicable to all strap types and strap bar 130 types.

An alternative strap and strap bar design is illustrated in FIG. 8. Strap 800 has a twin tongued end that is designed to for use with strap bar 130, wherein strap bar 130 has more than two base stems 134. This configuration requires two sets of snap discs receivers 810 and snap discs 820. Strap 800 is secured about strap bar 130 by inserting each tongue through its respective passage under strap bar 130, as illustrated. Each tongue is then folded back and over strap bar 130 where upon snap discs 820 are operably mated with snap disc receiver 810 to secure strap 800 about strap bar 130.

While widely used for belts and the like, buckle 100 of the present invention may also be used as decorative ornaments for numerous other articles of clothing, such as shirts and pants, to name but a few. Furthermore, buckles may be integrated directly into the waist of a pair of pants, skirt, or dress, with the articles of clothing having integrated straps that may be adjusted using the buckle.

In an alternative embodiment, a single piece, glass belt buckle is described in FIG. 9, wherein belt buckle 900 preferably has at least two spikes. The at least two spikes are structurally and functionally as described herein above. As illustrated in FIG. 9, spike 920a and 920b are generally located at opposite ends of back portion 912 of main body 910 of belt buckle 900. In this alternative embodiment, belt buckle 900 lacks a strap bar, but instead uses the at least two spikes, 920a and 920b, to fasten the strap about the desired object or portion of the body. The strap to be associated with this alternative embodiment is preferably designed to accommodate the at least two spikes; thereby requiring passage holes at each end of the strap.

In an alternative embodiment, a single piece, glass belt buckle is described in FIG. 10, wherein belt buckle 1000 preferably has two strap bars. The two strap bars are structurally and functionally as described herein above. As illustrated in FIG. 10, strap bar 1030a and 1030b are generally located at opposite ends of back portion 1012 of main body 1010, and angled in opposite directions. In this alternative embodiment, belt buckle 1000 lacks spikes, but instead uses two strap bars, 1030a and 1030b, to fasten a strap about a desired object or portion of the body. Specifically the strap is removably associated with bars 1032a and 1032b. The strap to be associated with this alternative embodiment is preferably designed to accommodate the two strap bars; thereby requiring snap discs and snap disc receivers as described herein above. Buckle 1000 can have at least two base stems for each strap bar 1030a and 1030b. For example, strap bar 1030a should have at least two base stems, and strap bar 1030b should have at least two base stems. As described herein above and as illustrated in FIG. 8, a strap bar may have three or more base stems. FIG. 8 illustrates such an embodiment. Therefore, in this alternative embodiment, strap bars 1030a and 1030b may have two or more base stems 1032a and 1032b, wherein the number of base stems for strap bar 1030a is independent of how many base stems in strap bar 1030b. It will be apparent to one of skill in the art that other fasteners may be used for fastening the strap about strap bars 1030a and 1030b.

As mentioned herein, various types of glass and additional components, such as coloring, can be used in the making of buckle 100 of the present invention. As used herein, the glass, or components thereof, can be in any form, including but not limited to, rock, sand (fine or course form) and straight rod.

In a preferred embodiment, the invention uses borosilicate glass. Borosilicate glass has a very low thermal expansion coefficient, about one-third that of ordinary glass. This reduces material stresses caused by temperature gradients, thus making it more resistant to breaking. In addition to the quartz, sodium carbonate, and calcium carbonate traditionally used in glassmaking, boron is used in the manufacture of borosilicate glass. Typically, the resulting glass composition is about 70% silica, 10% boric oxide, 8% sodium oxide, 8% potassium oxide, and 1% calcium oxide (lime). The addition of boron makes borosilicate glass far stronger than “soft” glass. Borosilicate glass begins to soften around 821 degrees Celsius (1510 degrees F.). Borosilicate glass is also less dense than ordinary glass.

In addition, borosilicate glass is preferred for the color palette available to the artisan. While there are fewer colors of borosilicate glass available, each color gives an organic, living color that can be manipulated and shaded with careful torch work and annealing processes known to those of skill in the art. The approach permits a more dynamic and subtle finished piece usually. Furthermore, as will be appreciated by the skilled artisan, the chemical composition of borosilicate glass allows the artisan to use difference precious metal (i.e., silver and gold) to color the glass in various ways.

New lampworking techniques led to artistic applications such as contemporary glass marbles. Borosilicate is commonly used in the glass molding, and glassblowing forms of lampworking.

In an alternative embodiment, soda-lime glass, one family of glass that can be used within the scope of the present invention, is the most prevalent type of glass. Soda-lime glass can be created by melting a mixture of silicon dioxide, sodium carbonate, and either calcium carbonate or calcium oxide. Adding sodium carbonate lowers the melting point of the glass, thus lowering the energy required to heat it, but also making it soluble in water. Calcium carbonate or calcium oxide is added to counter this.

In soda-lime glass, sodium (Na+) and calcium (Ca2+) ions are inserted into the silicate ion structure such that the tetrahedrons of silicon and oxygen atoms are stretched. The glass transition temperature (Tg) is about 730° C. and the melting point is about 1000° C. Water containing powders of soda-lime glass exhibits alkalinity because Na+ and Ca2+ dissolve in it, leading to hydrolysis. A flame test of soda-lime glass reveals colors consistent with the mixing of its constituents, intermediate between those of Na+ and Ca2+.

In a preferred embodiment, the molded glass is made by fusing techniques. Fusing, as pertains to the present invention, is a term used to describe glass that has been fired (heat-processed) in a kiln at a range of high temperatures from 593° C. (1100° F.) to 816° C. (1500° F.). There 3 main distinctions for temperature application and the resulting effect on the glass. Firing in the lower ranges of these temperatures 593°-677° C. (1100° 1250° F.) is called slumping. Firing in the middle ranges of these temperatures 677° C.-732° C. (1250°-1350° F.) is considered “tack fusing”. Firing the glass at the higher spectrum of this range 732° C.-816° C. (1350°-1500° F.) is a “full fuse”. All of these techniques can be applied to one glass work in separate firings to add depth, relief and shape.

Most contemporary fusing methods involve stacking, or layering thin sheets of glass, often using different colors to create patterns or simple images. The stack is then placed inside the kiln (which is almost always electric, but can be heated by gas, wood or other means) and then heated through a series of ramps (rapid heating cycles) and soaks (holding the temperature at a specific point) until the separate pieces begin to bond together. The longer the kiln is held at the maximum temperature the more thoroughly the stack will fuse, eventually softening and rounding the edges of the original shape. Once the desired effect has been achieved at the maximum desired temperature, the kiln temperature will be brought down to avoid devitrification. It is then allowed to cool slowly over a specified time, soaking at specified temperature ranges which are essential to the annealing process. This prevents uneven cooling and breakage and produces a strong finished product. This cooling takes place normally for a period of 10-12 hours in 3 stages.

The first stage—the rapid cool period—is meant to place the glass into the upper end of the annealing range 516° C. (960°). The second stage—the anneal soak at 516° C. (960° F.)—is meant to equalize the temperature at the core and the surface of the glass at 516° C. (960° F.), relieving the stress between those areas. The last stage, once all areas have had time to reach a consistent temperature, is reduction to room temperature. The kiln is slowly brought down over the course of 2 hours to 371° C. (700° F.), soaked for 2 hours at 371° C. (700° F.), down again to 260° C. (500° F.), which ends the firing schedule. The glass will remain in the unopened kiln until attaining room temperature.

Note that these temperatures may vary. Depending on the kiln, the size of the project, the number of layers, the desired finished look, and even the type of glass, ramp and soak temperatures and times may vary.

While fused glass techniques are generally used to create glass art, glass tiles and jewelry, the slumping process allows the creation of larger, functional pieces like dishes, bowls, plates and ashtrays. Producing functional pieces generally requires 2 or more separate firings; one to fuse the glass and a second to shape it.

In an alternative embodiment, the belt buckle of the present invention may be of blown glass. In this manner, the belt buckle is made by blowing a glass bubble on the end of a hollow tube, i.e., a blowpipe. The skilled artisan then shapes the glass into the desired shape by using, for example, iron tools, spinning, pinching and rolling. Alternatively, the bubble of glass is placed into a hollow mold while the artisan continues to blow until the glass bubble expands into all the desired portions of the mold.

Regarding glass working as it pertains to the present invention, the materials and methods commonly known and used in the glass working industry will be appreciated and apparent to those of skill in the art. This pertains to the ranges of glass to be used, and to the various techniques applied to the ranges of glass that are sufficient for application in the present invention. Therefore, it will be appreciated by one of skill in the art that the techniques (i.e., molding, shaping, blowing, forming, and temperatures/times for heating and cooling), materials, and compositions applied in the present invention are known. This also applies to added components, such as metallic flakes, various colorings, or other materials that are added to the glass to afford varied appearance by design.

While this invention is satisfied by embodiments in many different forms, as described in detail in connection with preferred embodiments of the invention, it is understood that the present disclosure is to be considered as exemplary of the principles of the invention and is not intended to limit the invention to the specific embodiments illustrated and described herein. Numerous variations may be made by persons skilled in the art without departure from the spirit of the invention. The scope of the invention will be measured by the appended claims and their equivalents. The abstract and the title are not to be construed as limiting the scope of the present invention, as their purpose is to enable the appropriate authorities, as well as the general public, to quickly determine the general nature of the invention. In the claims that follow, unless the term “means” is used, none of the features or elements recited therein should be construed as means-plus-function limitations pursuant to 35 U.S.C. §112, 16.