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Gutta-Percha

Circa 1842-1901

 

[Click the picture above, to view this item]

Above is a "Match Safe", made from Gutta-Percha

Gutta-Percha was very prevalent during the Victorian era, especially during the period of  “Mourning Jewelry”. In Paris in 1842 while experimenting with many substances for the  “new rubber making process”, a new substance was discovered that originated from the sap of a Malayan tree known as (Isonandra Gutta). With its gum-elastic properties, it was the source for this new substance called gutta-percha. Also it was the first natural plastic known to mankind, causing a revolution in its application, during this “new age of discovery”.

Artisans became wild about this new discovery and utilized it in many crafts, from furniture making, dentistry (for fillings), to jewelry and their accompanying items. Shortly after with the death of Prince Albert in 1861, “Mourning Jewelry” became the rage, and gutta-percha was an ideal substance in this “age of black”, since in its finished state its color was black to brownish black and ideal for this new rage called “Mourning Jewelry”, where black reflected the mood of England and the world as they mourned the death of Prince Albert.

Lockets, pendants, brooches and bracelets were the most common jewelry items that utilized Gutta-percha.

 Two simple test that you can perform to verify that an item is Gutta-Percha

1) Rub the item on a piece of white paper. It should leave a "brownish gray-black colored line".

2) With a cloth, quickly rub the item on the cloth, the friction will create heat. Now quickly bring the cloth and item up to your nose, you should spell the distinctive odor of burning rubber.

Walt Tofel

[What is Mourning Jewelry]

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