Some terminology
Re: Newly made from some kind of thermoplastic resin -- Rosanna Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: Rosanna Mail author
06/14/2015, 19:16:48

Beads made from phenolic resin, which is a thermosetting resin (cannot be re-melted and re-formed, only machined) are most often referred to as Bakelite beads. Bakelite was only one of the trade names for phenolic resin, but is used in the same way that Kleenex has been used to describe all tissues. Since old Bakelite items of all sorts are highly collectible, and most of these items, including beads, are advertised as Bakelite and not phenolic, I think it is OK to just refer to the material as Bakelite. In the past I thought using "Bakelite" was potentially misleading but after studying the other Bakelite collectibles areas a bit I now think it is just as good as saying "phenolic resin", and more widely understood.

"Copal amber" and "African amber" are terms that are (unfortunately) also used to describe phenolic resin beads, and as well other plastic beads that are amber-colored. I would love to know when "copal amber" entered the vocabulary of the bead world. I have an active imagination and wonder if some sales person just could not bring themselves to say the beads were plastic, and came up with "copal amber" when someone asked if they were amber. Every once in a while I will see true copal beads for sale, but they are rare and fragile and look nothing like phenolic plastic.

"African amber" now seems to be a term applied to anything that remotely looks like amber but is clearly not natural amber.

Another term that is used a lot is "cherry amber" which is invariably translucent phenolic resin, or possible another plastic.

I'm sure there are others that can chime in on the subject of amber substitutes as well.

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