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Alpacca

Alpaca has no silver content and is an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc. It is also known as nickel silver.

In 1770 German metalworks were able to produce a copper-nickel-zinc alloy for the first time, in imitation of imported "Chinese silver". In 1823 the process was perfected independently in both Germany and England, and the trademarked name Alpacca became widely used. Widely available after the 1860s.

1823

 

Aluminum

Aluminum was introduced in 1827, and was originally an extremely expensive material. Popular with religious artists from the1880s though the 1920s, because of its light weight and the way fine detail could be cast. Many antique crucifix and medals are aluminum. 

Identify: Weight = very light. Color = pale silver. Fine detail, little wear over years, scratches and bends easily, not shiny. Aluminum does not corrode or rust.

1830

1920

Aurora Borealis

In costume jewelry, a term for lead crystal stones that have a highly iridescent surface. The effect is achieved by vapor blasting the facets of the lower part of the crystals with a micro thin metal sheet. The Aurora Borealis crystal finish was created in collaboration with Christian Dior in 1950. Widely available after 1955, this was the first of many metal-based finishes created by Swarovski for their crystal beads.

AB is a finish on about half of the crystal. AB-2X covers the entire crystal.

1950

 

Goldstone (Aventurine)

The distinguishing feature of aventurine is the metallic fleck inclusion. Aventurine is also the name of a semi-precious form of translucent microcrystalline quartz. Ironically, the natural stone aventurine is named for the glass that mimics the stone's appearance.

 

 

Bakelite, Catalin (Phenolics)

Bakelite is a phenolic resin, patented in 1909, and was the first truly synthetic plastic material. Bakelite was used in the manufacture of brooches, bracelets and beads and can be molded when heated, is durable and can be highly polished.Smell

Bakelite has a very distinct acidic odor somewhat like a shellac.

Bakelite and Catalin have a very distinctive smell – a sweet chemical odor. Once you smell it once or twice, you can recognize it easily. Another good way to test for Bakelite is to hold it under hot water for about 30 seconds and then smell it. Bakelite has a very distinct odor somewhat like a shellac. If there is no odor, it's likely the piece is Lucite.

Bakelite

Testing

As bakelite and catalin age, UV light causes a layer of phenyl alcohol to form on its surface.

Formula 409 Cleaner is widely used to test bakelit;. Spray a small amount on a swab and rub it on the test area for a few seconds. If the swab develops a yellow color regardless of the color of the plastic, the piece is probably Bakelite. To protect the finish, wash the tested area immediately with warm water, and don’t rub hard - you can strip the finish or gloss from Bakelite if you rub too hard, making it dull and hard to restore. If you inadvertently do this, use simichrome polish to attempt to restore the finish. It is possible for Bakelite to fail one of these tests if the piece is dirty, has an applied finish or sealant not original to the piece, or which has a damaged finish.

 

Catalin Catalin is a cast Bakelite product, with a different manufacturing process (two-stage process) than other types of Bakelite resins (without using fillers such as sawdust or carbon black). Catalin is transparent, near colorless, rather than opaque, brown, so unlike other bakelite phenolics it can be dyed bright colors or even marbled. This has made Catalin more popular than other types of Bakelite. In the 1930-50's it quickly replaced most plastic consumer goods. Catalin was not a durable product. It tended to shrink and crack as it aged. Also, due to oxidation, it changed color as it aged.

The best and safest way to test and identify vintage plastics is with simichrome polish which you can purchase at most hardware stores. It is also great for polishing Bakelite, silver, and most any metal. Polished Bakelite will leave a yellow residue on the cloth regardless of what color the Bakelite is.

We no longer use Simichrome polish to test vintage plastics because it gives false positive results from time to time. This may be because Simichrome, unlike 409, contains abrasives which can prompt plastics which are not bakelite to give off a residue when rubbed with Simichrome. We feel that Simichrome polish is a superior product for polishing bakelite and other vintage plastis, but do not feel it is appropriate as a testing agent.

Some pieces which are Bakelite will not pass some or all of these tests. They include pieces which are very dirty, pieces which have previously had their finish stripped with chemical test agents such as Scrubbing Bubbles, some reds, many blacks, pieces which have resin washed coating, pieces which have been covered with plastics sealant compounds, pieces which have been sanded, and newly re-worked pieces made from Bakelite and freshly polished.

 

Dow Bathroom Cleaner USED TO BE widely used to test vintage plastics. However, it is very caustic and can destroy the shiney finish on the area of the piece being tested. THEREFORE WE STRONGLY DISCOURAGE THE FURTHER USE OF THIS PRODUCT TO TEST VINTAGE PLASTICS.

 

1909

 

Blown glass

Using this method, a glob of molten glass was removed from the furnace and the desired shape obtained by blowing through a glass tube - much the same way glass vases are made.

 

 

Bog Oak

This material is a hard black semi-fossilized wood originating from the peat bogs of Ireland. A very popular material with the Victorians it has been used to make items both large and small. When George IV visited Ireland in 1821 he was presented with a walking stick made from the material. Small jewelry items usually have typically Irish designs and decoration. Some later pieces had the designs stamped onto them rather than carved.

Bog Oak is dark brown in color and does not polish very well. Often it will have a distinctive peaty smell.

Looks duller and browner than jet. Also has a definite ‘bog’ smell

 

 

Bois Durci

Made from a paste of fine sawdust and an organic binder such as egg white or blood, molded under high pressure and steam heat. Patented in Paris in 1855 by the Parisian writer Francois Lepage. Hard and highly polished, it was used as a wood substitute or to mimic jet, bone, or metal. Sometimes used to create religious medals that look very similar to bronze. (1)

The material was not very durable and few items survive.

1855

1926

Brass

Identify: weight = medium heavy. Color = golden when new, brownish with patina. Wears quickly. Little scratching, shiny. Corrodes easily with greenish blue or white tint. Can rust.

 

 

Brass

Identify: weight = medium heavy. Color = golden when new, brownish with patina. Wears quickly. Little scratching, shiny. Corrodes easily with greenish blue or white tint. Can rust.

 

 

Camphor Glass

A cloudy white glass created by treating the object with hydrofluoric acid vapors, made in numerous Midwestern US facilities during the mid-19th century. Camphor glass is not completely opaque and is usually a cloudy grayish white.  Blue camphor glass, attributed to the Sandwich Glass Company, also exists but is extremely rare.

1850

 

Carnival Glass

Inexpensive pressed glass with vivid gold, orange, and purple iridescence, made in the United States between about 1895 and 1924. It was frequently offered as fairground prizes.

Source: Glass: A Pocket Dictionary of Terms Commonly Used to Describe Glass and Glassmaking compiled by David Whitehouse of The Corning Museum of Glass.

 

 

Casein

Casein was first exhibited at the Paris Exposition of 1900 under the trade name Galalith. Under the name Erinoid, casein was exhibited at the first British Industries Fair in 1915, and an improved version was patented in 1950. Casein manufacturing continued until about 1980.

Casein plastic is made from chemically-hardened milk proteins, and does not melt into a liquid. Casein was usually manufactured in sheets and then mechanically stamped out in basic shapes, which were hand tooled into the finished objects. It can be dyed almost any color, or combination of colors, and often was used to imitate ivory, horn, or tortoise shell.

Look and feel

Casein can lose moisture over time, and sometimes you can see this as a subtle "crinkle" on the surface.

Smell

Casein is made with animal protein, and smells, unfortunately, like wet dog.

Testing

1900

1980

Casein

Look and feel

Casein can lose moisture over time, and sometimes you can see this as a subtle "crinkle" on the surface.

Smell

Casein is made with animal protein, and smells, unfortunately, like wet dog.

Testing

 

 

Celluloid

Celluloid was introduced in 1862 as Parkesine, an artificial ivory. Popular into the first half of the 20th century. Beads were made of celluloid starting in about 1900 and were very popular during the Art Deco period. Celluloid is unstable and prone to significant changes with age; it may yellow with time, turn pinkish-brown, warp, or crumble. It's flammable and softens when exposed to mild heat.

1869

1940

Celluloid & Acetate

First created as Parkesine in 1862 and as Xylonite in 1869, registered as Celluloid in 1870. Originally intended as an ivory replacement, celluloid is unstable and highly flammable. It’s no longer widely used. Acetate (cellulose acetate) is almost identical to Celluloid, but is less flammable.  It was invented in 1904.

 Unusually, both are referred to as “Celluloid”.

Smell

In hot water, Celluloid will give off the odor of camphor, one of its ingredients. Acetate has a different formula and will smell like vinegar.

Testing

One decisive way to identify celluloid is to use acetone; it will dissolve celluloid completely. Not recommended as a routine method of identification!

Look and Feel

Celluloid has characteristics which are different from other plastics. Celluloid items tend to be thinner and lighter than Bakelite, and it is definitely more brittle and can crack when heated to higher temperatures.

Can be damaged by moisture, temperature extremes, or chemicals. Celluloid that has been stored in a closed environment for long periods can become "sick" and begin to discolor, crack, or even disintegrate.

Celluloid is made with camphor, and will smell like mothballs or pine sap.

 

 

 

Cloisonné

Cloisonné beads are meticulously handcrafted by skilled artisans. First, tracts of wire are soldered on to a base bead in different designs. Then, the hollow areas are filled with enamel and fired. This process is repeated until all of the space is filled in. The bead is then polished and the exposed metal edges gold or silver plated. These beads can come in a variety of colors and are all unique.

 

 

Coca, Tagua (Vegetable Ivory)

Vegetable ivory was a popular material for vintage rosary beads, and is still available, although less common. Often called Coca, Coco, or Tagua, it is not related to the coconut palm. An ivory substitute since at least the mid 19th century, vegetable ivory is beautiful in it's own right. It has a texture and hardness similar to elephant ivory, with a rating of 2.5 on the scale of mineral hardness.

According to legend, a ship sailing from South America to Germany in 1865 carried a load of tagua nuts as ballast. Upon arriving at dockside in Hamburg, curious stevedores began playing with the taguas, and, noticing their ivory-like characteristics, began using it for scrimshaw.[2]

Ivory nuts were a popular material for buttons, beads and small sculptures until the 1950s, when plastics greatly reduced the demand for tagua nuts.

Several tropical palms produce vegetable ivory. Phytelephas aequatorialis, also known as the ivory-nut palm, grows along the banks of tropical American rivers from Panama and Colombia to Peru. Metroxylon amicorum, the Caroline ivory-nut palm, is native to the Caroline Islands of Micronesia. Hyphaene ventricosa is an African palm native to islands and banks of the Zambezi River near Victoria Falls.

1860

1950

Copper

Identify: weight = medium heavy. Color = reddish when new, brownish with patina. Wears quickly. Little scratching, shiny. Corrodes easily with greenish tint. Does not rust.

 

 

Crystal - Leaded Glass

Leaded Glass, also call Lead Crystal, is a variety of glass in which lead replaces the calcium content of a typical potash glass. Lead crystal was invented by the English glassmaker George Ravenscroft, who patented his new glass in 1674. He had been commissioned to find a substitute for the Venetian crystal produced in Murano, which used pure quartz sand and potash. By using higher proportions of lead oxide instead of potash, he succeeded in producing a brilliant glass with a high refractive index, well suited for deep cutting and engraving.

When tapped, lead crystal rings, unlike ordinary glasses. Consumers still rely on this property to distinguish it from cheaper glasses.

 

 

Crystal – Rock Crystal

Rock crystal is the name given to all clear colorless quartz.

 

 

Enamel

Vitreous enamel, or just enamel (or porcelain enamel in U.S. English), is a material made by fusing powdered glass to a substrate by firing, usually between 750 and 850 degrees Celsius (1380 and 1560 degrees Fahrenheit). The powder melts, flows, and then hardens to a smooth, durable vitreous coating on metal, glass or ceramic.

 

 

Filigree

Filigree is a delicate ornamental metal-work, usually made of gold or silver in curving motifs. It often suggests lace. Modern filigree may be made by stamping the lacy open-work pattern out of sheets of silver or gold, rather than the traditional, more delicate method of twisting and soldering metal threads.

 

 

Fire-polished

Fire-polished beads are faceted glass beads that have been reheated in a kiln to melt them just enough to give a smooth, polished appearance.

 

 

French Jet (Glass)

Black glass, or 'French Jet', was created to simulate Jet. The glass was generally molded and produced a cheaper alternative to the hand carved and polished Jet.

Black glass is easy to tell apart from Jet as it is heavier and colder to the touch. It also has a bright shine and hard appearance, unless it has been intentionally dulled or 'bloomed'.

 

 

French Jet:

black glass. You can tell French jet because it will be heavier than jet, and it will be cold to the touch; jet has a lower thermal conductivity rate than glass and will thusly be warm.

 

 

Glow-in-the-Dark

Phosphorescent plastic dates from about 1960.

1960

 

Gold Filled

Made by combining a layer or layers of gold alloy to a base metal (usually brass or copper), then rolling or drawing the metal to the desired thickness and shape. It has a long life and can be worn by most people without reactions or difficulties.

 

 

Goldstone, Aventurine glass

Goldstone was invented in 17th century Venice by the Miotti family, who were granted an exclusive license by the Doge. Persistent folklore describes goldstone as an accidental discovery by an unnamed Italian monastic order or medieval alchemists, but this appears to be only a legend.

Antique Goldstone is usually a reddish-brown, containing tiny crystals of metallic copper that require special conditions to form properly. The final appearance of each batch is highly variable; the outer layers tend to have duller colors and a lower degree of glitter. The best material is near the center of the mass, ideally with large, bright metal crystals suspended in a semitransparent glass matrix. Beads are usually carved from this mass, not molded or blown.

By using minerals other than copper, Goldstone can be made in purple, blue, and green – these colors are rare in antiques but common in modern manufacturing.

1626

 

Gutta percha

A hard rubber-based material that looks like wood, introduced in 1843. While still in production for use in dentistry, Gutta Percha hasn't been used for beads since the mid 20th century.

Gutta percha buttons may have a mixture of gutta percha latex and rubber.
2. Usually dark colored, but may range from dark yellow through red to dark brown and black.
3. Resembles rubber but is glossier and lighter weight than rubber.

Rub it with your thumb or hot needle it, and it will not have that acrid sulfur smell of rubber - it's a much "sweeter" and milder rubbery smell.

Taste test: Salty. Just touch the tip of your wet tongue to the back of a suspected gutta percha button. Salt sensors are located on the tip, and your saliva is needed to conduct the taste. Be aware that not everyone's ability to taste is the same, and may be affected by factors such as medicines you are taking.
8. Gutta percha is harder than rubber and has excellent molding properties that lent it so well to detailed buttons, giving them a better defined and "crisper" look than rubber or compositions.

1843

 

Horn:

If held up to the light, horn won’t be evenly/solidly black – at the edges it may look translucent.

 

 

Ivory

 

 

Jet:

http://www.blackasjet.co.uk/acatalog/whitby_jet.html

Jet is fossilized wood formed from a species of Araucaria (the monkey puzzle tree). It can be highly polished, an intense black color that never fades. It is a tough material but lacks hardness, which makes it easy to carve but also easily scratched and damaged.

 Jet was especially popular during the Victorian period. Jet is found in small deposits throughout the world, but “Whitby Jet”, that is, Jet mined in Whitby, England, is considered the highest quality.Will feel warm to the touch and leave a brownish/black streak on a piece of unglazed porcelain or concrete (but I urge caution if you do this, because jet is also very fragile). The definitive test to tell if something’s jet is the same as the bakelite test: prick it with a red hot pin. If it smells like coal, you’re onto a winner, but remember that jet will burn, so only do this if you absolutely have to and BE CAREFUL. (PS bakelite should smell like formaldehyde).

Jet isn’t actually a mineral, as it’s made when decaying wood is under extreme pressure (sort of like coal). Its what’s known as a mineraloid.

 

 

Lead Crystal

See ‘Crystal – Leaded Glass’

 

 

Lucite, Acrylic, plexiglass

A common bead material from the 1930s onward. Early Lucite was not considered a cheap material, and can be found in rosaries with sterling crosses and centers.

Testing Antique and Vintage Plastics

If you have a good sense of smell, the least harmful way to test and identify vintage plastics is with the hot water test. Hold the piece under hot water for around 30 seconds and then smell it.

Lucite and other plastics tend not to have any distinctive odour.

Lucite and Plexiglass are odorless.

Lucite

Acrylic, plexiglass. What we commonly mean when we say ‘plastic’. Brought to market in 1933. Lucite is a resin created by DuPont in 1937.

Lucite continues to be used in jewelry manufacture, but it reached its height of popularity in the 1940s-1950s. Common post-war pieces of interest to collectors include clear Lucite imbedded with glitter, seashells, rhinestones, or flowers. When placed briefly in hot water, Lucite is odorless. Older Lucite can develop cracks from age or exposure to heat.

 

1933

 

Milk Glass

White milk glass was first made in Venice in the 16th century, colors were introduced staring in the late 1700s. Colors include blue, pink, yellow, brown, black. 19th-century glass makers usually called milky white opaque glass "bone glass"; the name milk glass is relatively recent. The white color is achieved through the addition of an opacifier such as tin dioxide or bone ash.

Milk glass may be found in blue, yellow, pink, brown, black, and the white color that gives it is name. In some instances, milk glass may glow when exposed to ultraviolet light. This due to the fluorite that is used in production.

There have been various manufacturing processes used throughout the centuries. For instance, in the 1840s, arsenic was used to give the glass a very deep white. It made it look opalescent. Some of the earlier opalescent pieces also were rather fiery around the edges due to the use of arsenic.

From the 1840s to the 1870s, a mild white milk glass was created using flint glass (leaded glass). One of the methods that have been open to debate is that tin oxide was added during the smelting process. Because of a chemical reaction between the glass and the chemical, the white appearance occurred. The milk glass then retained this appearance, which is why it was and is frequently sought after.

After the 1960s, milk glass production declined in the U.S. due to environmental concerns. Much more environmentally safe methods are used nowadays.

Milk glass

Milk glass is an opaque or translucent, milky white or colored glass, blown or pressed into a wide variety of shapes. First made in Venice in the 16th century, colors include blue, pink, yellow, brown, black, and the white that leads to its popular name.

19th-century glass makers called milky white opaque glass "opal glass". The name milk glass is relatively recent. The white color is achieved through the addition of an opacifier such as tin dioxide or bone ash.

Milk glass was very popular during the fin de siècle and into the 1930s and '40s.

1590

 

Opaline Glass

A decorative style of glass made in France from 1800 through the early 1900s, though it reached its peak of popularity in the 1850s and 1860s. The glass is opaque or slightly translucent, and usually white, although it can be found in green, blue, pink, black, lavender and yellow. It has a high lead content. The primary influences on this style of glass were 16th century Venetian milk glass, and English white glass produced in 18th century Bristol.

Opalescent types of glass and plastic are still made today, but true antique opaline glass has more 'fire' than modern glass.

A type of milk glass made in France from about 1810 through the 1890s, reaching its peak of popularity in the 1850 and 1860s. The term Opaline was coined in France in 1823, and in was general use by 1835. Usually white, but also found in shades of green, blue, pink, black, lavender and yellow, Opaline glass is opaque or slightly translucent, and shows glowing red or gold highlights when held to the light.  This glass has a high lead content and is considered a semi-crystal glass.

In the mid 14th century Venetian glassmakers learned to make almost-opaque glass by adding tin oxide or the ashes of cattle bones to their mix. Originally called 'bone glass', this is the glass now known as 'milk glass'. At the beginning of the 1800s, French glassmakers began adding color to this white glass using oxides of antimony or arsenic. The first variation was 'Bulle de savon' or 'soap bubble' - a pale iridescence now called white opaline. Mauve, Yellow and turquoise were perfected in 1810, black about 1820.

1800

1890

Pressed Glass

The first recorded showing of pressed glass beads was in 1829, at a trade show in Prague. By 1850, glass beads were being produced by the millions, and exported all over the world. Pressed glass beads became very popular because of interesting shapes including faceted surfaces

glassware produced by mechanically pressing molten glass into a plain or engraved mold by means of a plunger. Pressed glass can generally be distinguished from hand-cut glass because of its blunt-edged facets, mold seams (which are often removed by polishing, however), and precise, regular faceting. No other glass bead type displays the breadth of range, nor has ever been produced on such a mass scale as Pressed Glass Beads.

Pressed glass is a form of glass made using a plunger to press molten glass into mold. It was first patented by American inventor John P. Bakewell in 1825 to make knobs for furniture.

The technique was developed in the United States from the 1820s and in Europe, particularly France, Bohemia, and Sweden from the 1830s. By the mid-19th century most inexpensive mass-produced glassware was pressed.

Wondering how you can tell the difference between cut and pressed glass? Check for seams. Pressed and poured glasses have seams. For pressed glass, the seam runs along one side, for poured it will run on both sides. In a vase, a seam that crosses over the bottom is poured glass. In a faceted drop such as a 'crystal', the seam will run all the way around the edge like a ring for poured glass. In cut glass, there are no seams. Examine the edges. Cut glass has crisp edges to the design, whereas poured or pressed glass has roundish edges. Don't think that your piece lacks value if it is pressed or poured! This technique has been around a long time

1829

 

Prosser

 

 

ProsserGlass

The "Prosser" technique of pressing glass, invented in 1840, consists of molding a cold glass and ceramic paste under great pressure and then firing it. The finished product looks like porcelain and is often referred to as such. This method allows for only opaque colors, not fully transparent ones. In 1844 Jean-Félix Bapterosses patented a machine for making buttons using the prosser method - he also improved the plasticity of the glass paste by incorporating milk into it. Bapterosses started producing beads in 1860 - 1864. All Prosser beads have a seam running around the bead.

1860

1955

Rose Petal

These beads are made from pressed rose petals and have a heavy rose fragrance. Not for regular use as they will eventually disintegrate.

 

 

Rose Wood

Beads made from wood that are usually dyed red and scented with a rose fragrance.

 

 

Russian cut (?)

beads are shaped into six-, seven-, or eight-sided tube before being drawn. After the tubes are cut to bead size, the ends of the ridge between the adjacent sides are ground off. The result is a bead with eighteen, twenty-one, or twenty-four facets. Some deviations resulted in more or less facets.

 

 

Saphiret Glass

Made in Gblonz, Bohemia (Czechoslovakia) in the mid 1800s through around 1910, Saphiret is highly collectable. Made by mixing colloidal gold into sapphire-colored glass, resulting in a brick red to brown glass that reflects a blue surface. Often found in brass or gold-filled settings, as this was ‘only’ glass.

1850

1915

Silver, Gold

Silver plate on old rosaries is often worn through the plating and you can see a hint of copper or brass showing through. A very worn crucifix or center that has all the characteristics of silver and shows no underlying metal is most likely solid silver but without testing you cannot be truly positive about this. This is usually a destructive process and I will not use it. I look with a magnifying glass for silver marks and also just rub with my thumb to see what happens- silver will quickly shine up and leave a black mark on your thumb, it also has a very distinctive smell. Old silver tarnishes black, never ever green.

 

 

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel differs from carbon steel by the amount of chromium present. Carbon steel rusts when exposed to air and moisture; Stainless steels contain sufficient chromium to form a passive film of chromium oxide, which prevents further corrosion.

1912

 

Steel

Before the mid-19th century, carbon steel was expensive and was only used where no cheaper alternative existed. With the advent of speedier and thriftier production methods, steel began replacing brass and copper for chains and links.

1850

 

Steel

By its nature, cut steel is sensitive to moisture. Never let cut steel come in contact with moisture. Moisture causes it to rust and lose its appeal (as well as value).

To clean, brush with a soft, dry brush or cloth.

 

 

Swarovski

See ‘Crystal’ and ‘Aurora Borealis’. Swarovski is the luxury brand name for the range of precision-cut lead crystal glass products produced by companies owned by Swarovski AG of Feldmeilen, near Zürich, Switzerland. Swarovski crystal was born when Bohemian-born Daniel Swarovski invented an automatic cutting machine in 1892. In 1895 the Swarovski company was founded when he established a crystal cutting factory in Wattens. Here he could take advantage of local hydroelectricity for the energy-intensive grinding processes he had patented. Swarovski crystal contains approximately 32% lead to maximize refraction.

 

 

Tin Cut

A story about Tin Cut Beads: Years ago, and commonly in the 30's and 40's, beads or stones were placed onto a notched wooden stick and the gem cutter would press them against a tin wheel. This is what created the faceting. Many people think it notates a type of bead with 'in-between' lead content. However, the term 'tin cut' has nothing to do with lead content. Most of the glass made back then contained lead in some percentage. Look closely at anything cut on a tin wheel you will see that no two facets are quite exactly the same.

 

 

Vermeil

made of sterling silver, heavily electroplated with 22kt yellow gold.

 

 

Vulcanite

In 1846 a patent was taken out for a material made by mixing rubber with sulphur and then heating it to 115 degrees C. The resulting hard material known as Vulcanite or Ebonite turned out to be the most successful simulant of Jet.

It was light, black, could be polished and like glass could be moulded to mass produce items quickly and cheaply. Items such a brooches, pendants and chains were all made from the material and often Jet and Vulcanite items can be found in near identical designs.

Like Jet, Vulcanite produces a brown powder when scratched. It does give off a faint sulphur smell but this is almost impossible to detect. Vulcanite is more durable than Jet and therefore unlikely to chip or crack. As with Bakelite this can be an indicator that the item is not a genuine antique Jet piece.

When Vulcanite is directly compared with genuine Jet it appears less black. If the material has been exposed to light for long periods then the item will usually have faded to brown. When burnt it gives off a strong smell of burning rubber.

 

 

Vulcanite (aka Ebonite):

This is an American invention made from sulphurised rubber. It is one of the best simulants of jet, but will fade to brown with prolonged exposure to light. Jet always looks black.

Jet is a solid and therefore cannot be put into a mould and shaped. All the shaping, carving and engraving had to be done by hand and is therefore very 'sharp' with flat facets and very fine detail. Jet can also be 'undercut' giving better 3 dimensional carvings whereas moulded items cannot be undercut.. Glass, vulcanite and plastic can all be moulded and retain give away signs of the moulding such as rounded edges, poor quality patterns and moulding marks.

 

 

Vulcanite (aka Ebonite):

This is an American invention made from sulphurised rubber. It is one of the best simulants of jet, but will fade to brown with prolonged exposure to light. Jet always looks black.

Jet is a solid and therefore cannot be put into a mould and shaped. All the shaping, carving and engraving had to be done by hand and is therefore very 'sharp' with flat facets and very fine detail. Jet can also be 'undercut' giving better 3 dimensional carvings whereas moulded items cannot be undercut.. Glass, vulcanite and plastic can all be moulded and retain give away signs of the moulding such as rounded edges, poor quality patterns and moulding marks.

 

 

Vulcanite, Ebonite

Vulcanite is a combination of vulcanized rubber and sulfur, a material invented in 1843 by Thomas Hancock and used extensively in jewelry, combs, and buttons. It was particularly fashionable for mourning jewelry in the late Victorian era (1860-1900) after being popularized by Queen Victoria.

1843

1900

Wound glass

Beads made by a method known as "winding." With this method, beads were made individually by drawing a molten glob of glass out of the furnace and winding it around an iron rod. Wound beads from a master glassmaker were so perfect that it was hard to find a seam where the different molten glasses merged.

 

 

 

 Source: Glass: A Pocket Dictionary of Terms Commonly Used to Describe Glass and Glassmaking compiled by David Whitehouse of The Corning Museum of Glass.

Venetians held a near monopoly on the bead industry for nearly 600 years.  A guild of Venetian glass makers existed in 1224 A. D.. Around 1291, a large portion of the Venetian glass industry moved to Murano, an island north of Venice; city fathers feared an accident with one of the glass furnaces could destroy the city.

For over two hundred years, beads were made in Murano by a method known as "winding." With this method, beads were made individually by drawing a molten glob of glass out of the furnace and winding it around an iron rod. Glass of another color could then be added, or the bead could be decorated with a design.

Coloring agents were added to the molten glass:

cobalt made blue;

copper produced green;

tin made a milky white;

gold resulted in red.

Wound beads from a master glassmaker were so perfect that it was hard to find a seam where the different molten glasses merged.

Another method was blown glass beads. Using this method, a glob of molten glass was removed from the furnace and the desired shape obtained by blowing through a glass tube—much the same way glass vases are made.

 

The Russian Blue bead did not appear in Alaska until just before Americans bought Alaska (1867). The Russian Blue beads are shaped into six-, seven-, or eight-sided tube before being drawn. After the tubes are cut to bead size, the ends of the ridge between the adjacent sides are ground off. The result is a bead with eighteen, twenty-one, or twenty-four facets. Some deviations resulted in more or less facets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Updated November 08, 2010