This is an intriguing necklace, and even now, I don’t know for sure whether the beads are amber, bakelite, lucite, faturan or some other kind of hard plastic.
They are a rich, deep warm honey amber colour, and are on the original knotted cord. As you see from the pictures, the beads are not uniform in colour, nor size. Some are semi-transparent, others, one in particular, is completely opaque and a lighter colour. Some of these beads look like they have tiny bits inside the bead, others look like they may have something white inside.
There are no seams, or mould marks on any of the beads, and they are definitely not glass. They are light in weight, and have a high shine and a warm feel.
Just about the only thing I definitely do know – apart from the fact they are gorgeous - is that they are old. I read somewhere that amber is light, but then I think vintage plastics are also light. Also, the (linen?) thread has stretched and although the beads are in perfectly wearable condition, as is, you may want to get them re-strung. The clasp is an old brass spring ring and the jump ring on the other end, is the old key-ring type. I believe these date this necklace to around the turn of the century, circa 1900.
I have taken many photographs of these beads, so please study them. If you need more, please ask.
The necklace measures 28” in length, excluding the clasp, and the beads are graduated in size. The largest central bead is a tad under 1” in diameter.
I have undertaken several non-invasive tests on this necklace, to try to find out what material these are made from. First I tried the ‘thumb test’. This involves rubbing a bead very quickly, to create friction, and thus release some of the chemical used in manufacture. I got a sore thumb but no conclusive odours.
Next I tried wiping one bead with metal polish, and whilst the Q-tip did get a yellowish stain, I don’t know whether it was dirt (it is an old necklace, which has been packed away for almost 30 years) or the signature streak of bakelite, or some other kind of hard plastic such as faturan or prystal. Learning about plastics is new to me, and it seems very complicated.
I also tried rubbing the biggest bead with an old silk scarf. I understand that if amber, the bead becomes charged with static electricity. Well I did not know exactly what to look for, and did not feel any electric charge or see any sparks. So that was inconclusive as well.
Now I am frankly just fed up with it. It has been hanging around the house for months, gathering dust, and now, I just want to see it sold.
So if you are reading this, with a view to buying, then please understand that this vintage necklace is being sold as such, with the actual material of the beads being categorically unknown. It could be amber, it could be plastic. I simply don’t know. And if you buy it, then I want you to understand you are buying it on that understanding.
I have described it to the best of my ability, and should you have any questions or any definitive way for me to identify the material, please let me know. I am usually able to answer emails within 24 hours. Please don’t suggest the hot pin test, I don’t want to ruin it, as it is a gorgeous mix between transparent and opaque, and a lovely vintage item.
Before I started trying to find out what the beads are made from without destroying them, I did wear them once, with a long terracotta Indian skirt, and a cream coloured top. Whatever they are made from, they are definitely gorgeous, and if I wore those colours more often, I would keep them. They are really comfortable to wear, and very eye catching indeed.