I have some info and examples
Re: Hmmm.... -- Beadman Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: Rosanna Post Reply
08/06/2019, 21:23:10

Hi Jamey,
I'm currently doing research on the thin disk beads that today are commonly called "vulcanite" but have only been observed (by me) in the Celluloid and vinyl versions. My hypothesis is that the disks were originally made from vulcanized rubber sheet stock and the name stuck after Celluloid was commercialized.

In searching for evidence that these disks were originally made from real vulcanite (hard vulcanized rubber), I've purchased quite a number of the oldest, most distressed-looking strands of disks. The older ones are mainly Celluloid disks with some palm wood disks sprinkled in. Here is a close-up of one strand. The Celluloid disks can easily be identified by noting that they have a lot of chips - the beads have become quite brittle with age and will crack apart easily. To confirm this, I also use my sniff test after reaming the holes to detect the odor of camphor.

I saw quite a few bead sample cards at the Jablonec Museum archives with Celluloid disks like these, in solid colors and also striped ones. They date from the interwar period - no specific dates have been preserved. However, Celluloid was being made into beads starting in the late 1800s so some of the disks may be pre-WWI. Celluloid items of all kinds were made up until about the 1950s, when other, less flammable plastics replaced Celluloid.

Cellulose acetate (CA), as far as I've determined to date, was not used that much for beads. I've only found buttons made from CA so far, but that doesn't mean there aren't CA beads out there. If you have any that you suspect are CA, the reamer test will emit an odor of vinegar (acetic acid) rather than camphor.

Flexible PVC was in commercial production in 1931, but if I were to guess, the "vinyl" versions of thin disk beads were not available until after WWII. According to John Picard, the vinyl disk production was from Czech R. until the Chinese put them out of business sometime in the 1980s.

I'm actively working on documenting the history of these thin disks so if anyone has any info please let me know! Especially, if anyone has any of the older disk strands (most are black and red only) where the beads are chipped and broken - I'd like to buy them from you so I can look for disks that may be made from vulcanite rubber or even other materials. You can tell the Celluloid ones from vinyl - you can easily break the Celluloid ones in pieces but it's basically impossible to fracture the vinyl ones by hand - they will bend but not break apart.

RFCelluloidCoconutDisksAug2019.jpg (58.7 KB)  

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