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Burmese Bakelite!


#1

Dear Orchid Readers,

Well, sorry to report that the wonderful Burmese ‘Amber’ I’ve
been buying and telling people about has been determined by the
AIGS Gem Lab to be genuine 100% Bakelite.

I’m going on a websurfing search for about this
material this evening. I hear it was developed before 1910, and
was one of the first forms of true plastic ever produced. Could
this be? There was apparently jewelry produced with the
material in earlier days as well. I’ve gotta say the color is
rather beautiful, and it dosen’t really ‘feel’ or smell like
plastic to me. The fumes produced with the hot pin did not
strike me as particularly ‘plasticky’ either. Just smells bad,
and even struck me as rather resinous!

The amazing thing is the inclusions, which led me to believe it
might be real. There are small fuzzy looking black spots,
irregularly shaped, in some pieces. Some has alot of air
bubbles; other pieces have none visible. Some is quite orange,
other is definitely red. Further, there is a small ‘stick’ in
one piece, which may still be one for all I know now. The
kicker for me was the about 4mm across ‘spider’-like inclusion.
At 10x, it still looks like a slightly mangled spider, and it
too might very well be one! How easy is this stuff to make?

The next question I have is, where is this particular Bakelite,
that with it’s red color can really only be sold as an imitation
of Burmite, being produced? Likely candidate is India, but I
guess it could be China, or Burma itself. Has anyone out there
ever seen this stuff before? I do not remember ever seeing any
on trips to Nepal, and you’d think it would be there if it were
made in India. It seemed only the yellow Indian plastic
imitation is sold there. I’m baffled…

I know, I know, everyone whw knows anything at all about gems
knows there’s a ton of synthetic Amber out there. How could I
be so naive as to think this might be real? Feel kinda stupid,
duh, but intrigued a bit as well.

Thank you. Scott.

Scott Davies
E-Mail @Scott_Davies1
URL http://www.ganoksin.com/gpg

G.P.G. Company Limited
206 Mahaesak Rd., Soi 2
Sitthikorn Bldg., Ste. 202
Bangkok, Thailand 10500
Phone (662) 635-6323
Fax (662) 635-6324


#2

Scott,

Bakelite is possibly the first modern plastic. It is my
understanding that if you make a solution of salt in warm water
until no more salt will disolve (saturated NaCl solution) you can
test for Amber. Amber will float and essentially all products
that are used to simulate it will not.

Bakelite is a dense plastic, and I would assume it would not
float in salt water.

TOM (OWL1)


#3

Scott:

1.54). Also it sinks rapidly in the saturated salt solution,
while Amber floats. Ether softens Copal “amber” but not Baltic
Amber. Pressed amber has elongated bubbles, a distinct flow
structure and a roiled appearance under magnification. It also
has an even light appearance when rotated in the polariscope’s
dark position. Hope this helps.


#4

Hi Scott,

I can contribute a little towards this new string.

My father was the fitting engineer on several sugar refineries
in Queensland back in the '50’s and he used to bring home 3"
squares of bakelite (a sugar by-product) strung on what we would
now call toilet chain in literally every color you can imagine.
There would be probably 100 squares to each chain. Some were
clear and some opaque and I loved to play with them.

My point is this stuff could even be coming out of Oz - in fact,
anywhere sugar cane is refined - which brings to mind South
American, where they are first in the World for cane production
(we are only second).

Don’t know if they produce bakelite from anything else - but my
guess is that cane is the original.

Nina
Nina - Silver Design, 9122 S. Federal Hwy, Suite 249,
Pt. St. Lucie, FL. 34952 : Toll Free:1-888-460-1800
URL: http://www.nina-sd.com : Email: @Nina


#5

Well, sorry to report that the wonderful Burmese ‘Amber’ I’ve
been buying and telling people about has been determined by the
AIGS Gem Lab to be genuine 100% Bakelite.

I’m going on a websurfing search for about this
material this evening. I hear it was developed before 1910, and
was one of the first forms of true plastic ever produced. Could
this be?

Scott:

Bakelite was first synthesized by Dr. Leo Bakeland in 1907
(another book said 1909, so I am not exactly sure). It was the
first synthetic plastic made. Due to is novelty everything from
jewelry to ashtrays to little statues were made from it. Things
made from it were quite trendy, since at this time plastic was a
neat idea rather than just cheap stuff. The original material was
synthesized from phenol and formaldehyde unber basic conditions.
Bakelite falls under the catagory of materials known as phenolics
or phenol-formaldehyde resins. Sometimes, however, the name is
used to refer to this whole class of materials. As far as ease
of production goes, this material could be easily produced using
the apparatus found in any high school chem lab. If I can be of
any further help, just let me know. Scott Steward


#6

I thought of a couple of observations on Amber that I’ll
probably get yelled at for sharing. My is only
acquired through experience and some may be in error.

As far as I know tree resin fossilized to amber when the country
of origin was covered by ice during the ice age. Any country
that wasn’t covered by ice is producing what is called “copal” or
imperfectly fossilized tree resin. This would include the
Dominican Republic, Africa, and any other country in the region
of the equator. America has wonderful amber but it has never
been gathered or mined commercially and, therefore, to my
understanding if you want some you’d better go get it yourself.
I waded up and down a stream in NJ once (following a lead) and
all I got was a cold! I’ve seen some American amber and it
looks just like the Baltic or Chinese - although I don’t know if
there are any exotic colors available as there are with the
other two areas. I’ve had Chinese Imperial Ruby (translucent),
Imperial Golden (translucent), and Black (opaque) - apart from
the regular yellows - although I’ve never seen a Chinese opaque
amber such as butterscotch. From the Baltic region, I’ve had
opaque magenta, opaque green, opaque red (called cherry), opaque
black and, of course, the translucent yellow and opaque yellow
called butterscotch.

I’m sure that many countries have true amber - but the squeeky
wheel get the oil and the three areas I know of are the ones from
which I have actually had amber in my hand. A lot of geographic
origins of amber are heresay.

Nina

Nina - Silver Design, 9122 S. Federal Hwy, Suite 249,
Pt. St. Lucie, FL. 34952 : Toll Free:1-888-460-1800
URL: http://www.nina-sd.com : Email: @Nina


#7
 Well, sorry to report that the wonderful Burmese 'Amber'
I've been buying and telling people about has been determined
by the AIGS Gem Lab to be genuine 100% Bakelite......  

G’day Scott et al; I’d be surprised if what you have is really
BAKELITE. That is an opaque, phenolic resin, very hard, very
brittle, and the hot pin test would give a smell of phenol - like
certain disinfectants. It is what is called a thermosetting
resin; once set it can’t be remelted. Furthermore, Bakelite is
so hard that the pin would have to be very hot to go into it at
all. It was invented by Dr Baekland well before WW1, and around
the time celluloid was invented (from guncotton!) I could quite
believe that you do have a synthetic plastic; there are several
that can be faked up to look and feel like amber. However,
having said all that, I have to admit I’m no expert on amber,
but as amber is pieces of very ancient resin, originally exuded
from trees, the hot pin test must give rise to an odour very
similar to similarly treated pine resin. Or it isn’t amber. Get a
bit of pine resin and try it. In the North of the North Island of
NZ there used to be vast forests containing huge Kauri trees
which are a distant relative of pine, and

the gum from these lay in the swamps for thousands of years
until searched for and dug up by early settlers who made a (poor)
living by selling it to varnish and lino makers. Certain folk
used to carefully melt this stuff down, include bubbles and other
bits or rubbish - including insects - and sell it to the tourists
as genuine amber. Looks, feels, and passes the tests, including
perfectly preserved insects and arthropods. You may even have
that? The modern and knowledgable fakers don’t include insects;
they can be identified and give the game away! I suggest you get
another identification done by someone who knows what bakelite
really is! I couldn’t keep my nose out of this one, could I?
Cheers,

        /\
       / /    John Burgess, 
      / /
     / //\    @John_Burgess2
    / / \ \
   / (___) \
  (_________)