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While many people equate the Industrial Revolution with the invention of the steam engine or the cotton gin, another more ubiquitous product also emerged from this transformative era -- plastic.
Similar in concept to the plastics of today, these early Victorian era plastics were derived from natural materials that could be made malleable, molded or chemically altered to create a new hardened substance.
This groundbreaking discovery revolutionized everyday 19th century life and soon natural and semi-synthetic plastics were utilized in everything from picture frames and belt buckles to coated telegraph cables and false teeth.
Naturally, it didn't take long before these magical plastics took the jewelry world by storm -- starting first with gutta-percha in 1822.
However, this beautiful piece hails from the second phase in the evolution of semi-synthetic plastics with the invention of vulcanite.
Developed and patented in the 1840s by both Charles Goodyear in the US and Thomas Hancock in Britain, vulcanite (also known as ebonite) was formed by combining sulphur and natural rubber and then heating -- or vulcanizing -- the mix. The result is a hard, black/brown material that often resembles ebony wood.
Given its naturally matte finish, vulcanite and other thermoplastics of the time were widely used in mourning jewelry. This cross is a wonderful example of that.
Molded in two pieces and joined together, this lovely pendant is quite hefty and sizable compared to similar pieces of the era. It features a 3-dimensional bouquet of stylized flowers -- possibly dahlias or chrysanthemums -- coming out of what looks like an angel trumpet or lily funeral vase.
Pendant has an attached loop at the top. Run a piece of ribbon through there and you will have yourself one amazing gothy statement choker!
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