A lot of the black victorian mourning jewelry is made of either vulcanite or gutta percha.
vulcanite mourning brooch
It can be hard to tell the two materials apart
and I admit I have a hard time .
Queen Victoria memorialized in a 1901 vulcanite brooch
A type of rubber, vulcanite is most commonly dark brown or black.
As a result in the mid and late 19th century, the hard
substance was used to imitate coral, tortoise shell and jet-
especially the latter, as dark pieces became more
popular especially with the prevelance
of mourning jewelry.
Mourning brooch made out of gutta percha,
(the hand was a popular motif)
Mourning bracelet.......... gutta percha
Although the two substances strongly resemble each other,
vulcanite is a manufactured rubber and gutta percha is a natural latex
substance. It's also a black or near black rubber-like
gum derived from the resin of trees from Southeast Asia.
Antique mourning bracelet.......gutta percha
Both materials came to be used for mourning jewelry
as a substitute for the more expensive jet jewelry.
Hand and snake gutta percha mourning brooch.
Both vulcanite and gutta percha pieces are
almost always molded as opposed to carved.
Vulcanites black color tends to fade over time with
repeated exposure to wearing and the light.
After looking at lots of examples of both..........
I still have a hard time telling one material from the other
and I suspect I am not alone as I have come across
many pieces labeled with both names.
I am sure an expert can easily tell though.
I did decide that I tend to gravitate towards the
pieces that have faded a bit to the browner side.
So maybe that means that I like vulcanite best?
But then I like the idea that gutta percha
is a natural material...........
A vulcanite piece that has faded a bit
Gutta percha photo frame
Although many people eventually put their
mourning clothes aside,
they often continued to wear their mourning
jewelry for the rest of their lives.
(all photos and information from internet)