Vulcanite, Gutta Percha, Bakelite Beads Needed for Study
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Posted by: Karlis Post Reply
03/06/2017, 16:24:45


A collection of beads from archaeological sites in the Congo that I recently studied contained a number of beads that appeared to be made of Vulcanite/Ebolite (a form of vulcanized rubber). While seeking information on this material and its use for beads, it became obvious that there is very little on this subject. It was also obvious that many of the beads identified on the internet as Vulcanite aren’t.

In hopes of producing a chart that will allow us to identify beads and jewelry made of Vulcanite and gutta percha (a related material) as well as various types of plastics based on their chemical and physical properties, a local plastics expert and I will be undertaking an analytical project to that end. Unfortunately, we do not currently have a wide enough sample base so I am contacting the members of this group to solicit specimens of old (pre-1950) Vulcanite/Ebolite and gutta percha beads or jewelry (basically anything that looks like hard rubber) as well Bakelite and other older plastic beads principally in black, gray, and red. I would be especially interested in obtaining beads of the forms shown on the attached Sick & Co. Sample card.

The beads can be sent on loan but we would prefer they be donated as a small area (2 mm) may need to be cleaned to remove dirt and oxidized material. It would also be beneficial to have them for a reference collection. The specimens submitted need not be perfect.

If you have specimens you would be willing to submit for analysis, please contact me directly:

I will contact everyone who responds in a few days.

Many thanks,


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