The Story of “African Amber” -Are Those Ancient Beads Real or Plastic?

Presented by Rosanna Falabella

This presentation will answer many questions and maybe make you anxious about your personal collection.  Many vintage pieces of ‘African Amber’ or ‘Copal Amber’ beads found in today’s Trade Bead Markets are actually made of phenol formaldehyde thermosetting resin – aka “Bakelite”.  Rosanna Falabella, a long time member of BSNC, will cover the history of Bakelite and information that she has found out about where and when the imitation amber beads were made and traded to Africa. Examples of the modifications to Bakelite beads done by African artists will be shown.

Do you own Bakelite and/or amber ~ or think that what you own is the real thing?  Come to the meeting on Tuesday with your items and Rosanna will share some relatively simple tests to distinguish Bakelite from other bead materials with a “hands on” session after the presentation.


Speaker Bio: Rosanna Falabella

B.S. Chemistry, M.S. and Ph.D. Polymer Science and Engineering, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Beaded jewelry hobbyist for about 20 years and bead collector and researcher since 2009.  Currently my main interests are glass and phenolic resin beads made in Europe for the African trade.  I became fascinated with plastic imitation amber beads since they represent an intersection of my technical training and my love of beads. Additionally, I enjoy a good mystery and I found that there is not much known about where & when phenolic resin beads were produced and sent to Africa.  My first article on the subject is in press:

“Imitation Amber Beads of Phenolic Resin from the African Trade”, BEADS: Journal of the Society of Bead Researchers 28:3-16 (2016).

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 at 7:30 pm
Social half-hour at 7:00 pm with coffee/tea

Courtyard Marriott, 5555 Shellmound, Emeryville, 94605.  The parking lot is a gated surface lot around the hotel.  Bring your parking ticket into the hotel; get it validated after the meeting and BSNC will pay the parking fee.  Members free with membership card, non-members $5

Leave a comment