How Faking is accomplished—and Its Ramifications
Re: Questions -- Beadman Post Reply Edit Forum Where am I?
Posted by: Beadman Mail author
04/30/2009, 03:43:22

I demonstrate in my paper for the IBBC Proceedings that Javanese beadmakers have come a long way, in twenty years, in making reproductions of jatim, from the standpoint of technique. At Jombang and Jember, they now make canes, decorate them fairly appropriately, and (most importantly) constrict them to form individual beads. Because of this, the latest generations of reproductions have the potential to passed-off as authentic ancient beads.

However, since most ancient jatim display some degree of glass decay, and the fakes would be frankly new-looking, steps are taken to artificially age the new beads to make them appear old. Two things are done to accomplish this.

While the beads are still on their mandrels and still warm/soft, they can be plunged into water—which makes the outer surface crackle, but (ideally) does not deeply affect the interior of the beads. This is a technique practiced at Venice about 100 to 200 years ago, in the creation of "ice glass." So we can understand that it is potentially doable. Next, the beads are soaked in a solution of hydrocloric acid, that attacks the glass, and results in a decayed and usually discolored surface. There's a range of effects, varying from slight to profound—the latter appearing almost white.

These two treatments result in beads that appear old because the glass has become crackled and leached of its constituents (whitened).

One of the things I was told in Jombang that most surprised me was that beadmakers expect somewhere between forty and fifty percent of loss, due to beads breaking upon cooling—because there is no technical annealing of the glass. If they were to introduce and practice good annealing, their failure rate would probably be five to ten percent at the most.

When beadmakers take the practice of quenching a bead in water, to crackle it, I have to think that ninety-nine percent of them are "time-bombs" (a designation American glassworkers use for unannealed glass, that is sure to break—whether it's this week or next century, but sometime—because unannealed glass simply cannot survive for very long).

I myself lost a number of beads just in the process of getting them home—most of which were hand-carried by me. Although my desire, when I returned home without going to Jember, was to return as soon as possible to accomplish that..., once I thought about it for a while, I began to ask myself "WHY?" Why should I return to Java to buy beads that statistically are going to break in the short-run? I think I have plenty to study now—and thankfully I have photographed most of them BEFORE they spontaneously fall apart. I would still like to go to Jember and document beadmaking there, and interview the glassmakers and workers, but it has become less of a priority. But we have to ask ourselves, "what is the point of owning a beautiful and technically proficient bead that is going to break on us?"

What I would really like to do is to get them ALL to use a decent annealing oven, and thus produce many many more sound beads. This bypassing of their breakage numbers would make their efforts rather more successful than they are currently (with such a huge failure rate).

I will try to answer any other questions that readers may want to ask.


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