Early belt buckles were purely functional, used as a way to attach conchas by connecting the belt leather's end pieces.
The earliest concha belts did not have buckles and were attached by tying the leather ends together. The first buckles were silver copies of harness buckles and were much smaller than the conchas. They were small circular loops with a center crossbar that held a tongue. They were inconspicuous next to the larger conchas.
As technical skills and tools improved, so did the complexity of the designs on the buckles. This became a way for the artists to show their skill and imagination. The buckles became larger, and more varied in shape, than the conchas at this time. The buckles were both wrought and cast; often imitating the earlier ketoh designs. It was also during this time that conchas were also converted to buckles.
Buckles weren't worn independently of the concha belts until after the turn of the 20th century.