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Faturan, in Middle Eastern beadwork, is a material used to make beads, notably in the making of komboloi and misbaha.

An Ottoman Marbled Faturan Prayer Bead


Originally, Faturan was a brand of cast thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin, similar to Bakelite and Catalin, manufactured by Traun & Son of Hamburg.,[1][2] developed in the early 20th century, and produced until the 1940s.

In the bead trade[edit]

In the bead trade, Faturan is often thought to be a mixture of natural amber shavings with other materials, and is described as having been invented in the Middle East in the 18th or 19th century, however this is not the case.

The first Bakelite arrived mainly to Turkey and the Middle East was in the form of drawer and furniture knobs and handles around 1909/1911. This is the time when the first prayer bead strands were made of Bakelite to appear on the market.

The bead carvers, mainly in Turkey, were swift to understand that Bakelite was a material that could be well carved, had a great appearance and could replace amber. Each master also had his secret "recipe,", even heating in various liquids and oils and making it undergo various physical or chemical processes to obtain the most beautiful aspect.

The original and genuine Faturan beads were mainly red or yellow in all its shades. The last genuine faturan beads were made in 1940 mainly due to the Second World War when the supply of raw material became very scarce. Normally, the last genuine faturan beads date of the late 1940s when the supply of the raw material that was sill left from the prewar stocks was terminated. After the Second World War the production stopped mainly due to the general severe restrictions that prevailed all over the world.

The demand for genuine faturan – often confused for amber - has always been great among prayer bead, tesbih and komboloi collectors. It has increased in the last fifteen years so much that it has attracted a great amount of "fake" faturan on the market. By "fake," collectors mean newly manufactured phenolic resin either purposefully or ignorantly presented as genuine faturan.

The result of this low-quality impostor material is that, today, there exists a very big confusion in the use of the word Faturan as well as about its meaning to the extent that practically any kind of phenolic resin is called unjustly Faturan, even those which are produced nowadays.

Genuine pre-1940 faturan - beads still intact, and in complete strands, made from one single type of material - are considered museum items and fetch extremely high prices by both institutional and individual auction bidders.

Faturan Oxidization[edit]

A 1930s Faturan Gear-stick

Faturan, as a material, displays an extreme example of a characteristic common to most phenolics - surface oxidization. Most phenolic will, over time, oxidize to a darker form of its original colour, but Faturan has the unique characteristic of, regardless of the original colour, always oxidizing to a dark red. This red colour caused the material, in the Middle East, to become known as ‘cherry amber’. If the red surface oxidization is removed the original colour of the material is exposed underneath. Oxidization means this car gear stick knob appears to be a dark cherry colour on the outside. However, once cut into segments the true colour of the material is revealed as green with a translucent yellow top. Due to oxidation over time even water clear Faturan turns cherry red, this has become one of the main reason bead collectors love Faturan as with time they experience and witness the prayer beads changing from one colour to another.

Faturan Gear-stick cut into segments

Faturan Types[edit]

A Henry Howell YZ bird, Sold By Dunhill

The most widely known type of Faturan is called Marbled, Swirled, or Damar. The swirls show the combination of more than one type of Faturan being mixed and combined, for example, transparent mixed with a dark colour. Most Ottoman Faturan Prayer Beads were made from Faturan Rods that have a swirl effect this is called "eye damar" which represents a round swirl that appears to look like an eye. Such old genuine Faturan Prayer Beads are hard to come by due to age and the fact that these beads are made to by used, as such must endure to day to day usage.

A Marbled Faturan Ottoman Prayer Bead

Gold Faturan[edit]

A Faturan Rod containing Gold Leaf

The properties found inside Faturan determine its desirability and value. The most valuable being gold, in the forms of Gold leaf, dust or metal, reputedly added when molten. The Rod is made of Faturan containing gold leaf. These types of rods were used for making jewellery beads, rings and accessories. Tribal Beads were used as dowry gifts and for making necklaces and other jewellery in North Africa and Asia. These beads are now sought after by collectors so that they can be turned into Prayer Beads, Especially if they contain Gold Dust.

A Carved Gold Dust Faturan Prayer Bead made from North African Tribal Beads

Golden Lava Flow Faturan[edit]

Golden Lava Flow Faturan slab and Walking stick handle

One of the rarest and sought after Faturan Types is called Golden Lava Flow Faturan, not to be confused with guanine crystals that give a glitter and shine in some Celluloid products. Bulgarian Catalin has also been given the name Lava Flow Catalin due to its similar pattern however it is nothing more than a cheap Catalin mix that has neither the Gold or properties of Faturan. Golden Lava Flow Faturan is a very rare mixture that involved a complicated and costly method of preparing a combination of melted gold and infusing it with Faturan. As the Gold is in a liquid Molten form when combined with Faturan it gives an almost Lava Magma look, hence the name. The infusing of Golden Lava Flow into Faturan however as stated is very complicated and is not always successful. If either the Gold or Faturan is not at the right temperature when fusing than it may result in the gold having a burnt look or the Faturan being cracked from the sheer heat of the molten gold.

A combination of Golden Lava Flow Faturan mixed with marbled Faturan

Golden Lava Flow Faturan with Multiple Colors[edit]

A Dunhill Walking stick Handle made from Golden Lava Flow Faturan with Multiple Colors Segment

A Dunhill walking stick handle made from Golden Lava flow that has multiple colors in the shape of a parrot. Where the stick has protected the base the material has not oxidized and the original colours, including gold, can be seen. This particular kind of Gold Faturan that has multiple colors is mostly found in Henry Howell Walking sticks, Umbrellas and Parasols in the shape of birds/animals. Dunhill sold several of these items as they had signed a contract with Henry Howell in the 1930s. Information about these Dunhill items can be found in Ian Holdsworth book "YZ" a copy is available at the British Library. Also a great website The YZ Site where you can find all the information you need to know about Henry Howell items.

The underneath of the handle showing Gold and multiple colors


[3] [4]

  1. ^ Baekeland, L. H.; Bender, H. L. (1925). "Phenol Resins and Resinoids". Industrial and Engineering Chemistry. 17 (3): 225–237. doi:10.1021/ie50183a002. 
  2. ^ "Trade Names E–H". Plastics Historical Society. 
  3. ^ An investigation into a mythical material (2015) Plastic Historical Society. Ian Holdsworth and Ibrahim Faraj
  4. ^ Images Courtasy of http://Amber-Island.com