In 1843 a more exotic material arrived on British shores, gutta-percha is a rubber-like substance made from the sap of the Palaquium tree, a native of Malaya and Borneo and is also thermoplastic. Its use was quickly appreciated and the gutta-percha Company was founded in London, in 1845. A tremendous variety of objects were made in gutta-percha, although few survive. The material becomes brittle when exposed to air. The most significant use was in the covering of submarine telegraph cables. Other products included acid-resistant bottles, buckets and tubing. Another was in the making of copies of coins and medals. It will smell like rubber when it’s rubbed briskly on fabric but the most effective way to tell if your item is gutta-percha is to taste it. (Please wash it before and after tasting it and in fact, taste it at your own risk) But if you choose to taste it, it will taste salty. If it doesn’t taste salty, it’s not gutta-percha. In reality, despite the fact gutta-percha is always listed in the literature as a Whitby Jet simulant, I am yet to see it in a jewellery item, shellac is often misidentified as gutta-percha. The only definitive items I have seen that are made from gutta-percha are golf balls, often described as “gutty’s” and with the gutty mark stamped into the pattern on the golf ball. Vulcanite is another rubber-based Whitby jet simulant which is also often misidentified as gutta-percha. Vulcanite could be dyed black and was, therefore, a more convincing simulant. To learn more about Vulcanite Learn more about Whitby jet simulants

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