Shellac is a resin secreted by the female lac bug, on trees in the forests of India and Thailand. It is processed and sold as dry flakes and dissolved in ethanol to make liquid shellac It is a natural bioadhesive polymer and is chemically similar to synthetic polymers, and thus can be considered a natural form of plastic. It has been widely used as a stone setting medium due to its adhesive nature for thousands of years. It can be turned into a moulding compound when mixed with wood flour and moulded under heat and pressure methods, so it can also be classified also as natural thermoplastic. In 1854 it was patented in the US as a moulding material for making ‘union cases”, the cases for daguerreotypes – an early form of photograph on glass. This moulding compound shows very fine detail. Although shellac items tend to be dark brown in colour they could be blackened. It is rare to see a shellac piece of jewellery that would be confused as jet, but it’s worth pointing out again, that many shellac items are misidentified as Gutta Percha.

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