Vulcanite is a hard, moldable rubber that has been formed by “vulcanizing” natural rubber through a curing process that involves high heat and the addition of sulfur. The result is a hard substance sometimes called “ebonite” that was used in the Victorian period to make mourning jewelry, combs, ornaments and buttons.
And today these beads are more popular and collectable than ever. Thousands of these beads are in private collections around the world. The African Traders are having to go deeper and deeper into Africa to find more of these beads and many styles which were readily available just 5 years ago are no longer seen today.
There are exceptional museum collections of trade beads at the Museum of Mankind in London, the Pitt River Museum in Oxford, the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Belgium, the Murano Museum of Glass in Italy, the Tropical Royal Institute of Amsterdam, the Bead Museum in Arizona, US and the Picard Trade Bead Museum in California, US to name a few.