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Objects made from shellac, late 19th century.

Objects made from shellac, late 19th century.
4 0 c m
actual image size: 26cm x 32cm


A group of personal ornaments, mirrors, and seals made from shellac. The central object immediately above the red seals is an American octagonal Union case made by Samuel Peck and Co, c 1860. This is moulded and contains a hand-coloured ambrotype (known in Britain as a glas collodion positive) showing a woman seated with her child. These early photographs faded in light so were carried about in closable cases such as this one. Shellac is produced from the secretions of the lac beetles which live on certain trees in India and south-east Asia. Another significant early use of shellac, due to its fine mouldability, was to make the earliest 78 rpm gramophone records in 1897, a use only superseded by vinyl copolymer records in 1948.

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© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library

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