Bead identification?

I got these huge beads at an estate sale; I thought they might be amber, but they’re actually made of different materials. Can anyone suggest what those materials or origin might be?


The smallest is about 2cm, 3/4"; the largest is about twice that size.

The big lot of pale yellow beads are very lightweight, somewhat translucent, and look like they’re full of tiny bubbles. Slightly rough texture, matte finish. Resin?


The four darkest brown beads are very smooth, with a satin finish, and have a lot of color variation. Too translucent to be wood, softer than glass or stone;
possibly horn or amber or synthetic? The big flat one shows a dark veinlike matrix.

The four amber color beads are hard, heavy, dense, like stone or glass. They’re the most translucent, and are covered with tiny nicks and scratches filled with a dark gray substance.

I’m pretty sure the big yellow one is faceted glass, probably cast, but uneven and asymmetrical, so the facets might have been cut. Lots of dirty nicks.
IMG_20200820_173800_kindlephoto-417243795
Any suggestions about materials, age, origin?

They make me think of Africa, though most trade beads I’ve seen are smaller. They’ve probably knocked around for a few decades, with nicks, scratches, cracks, and abrasions from being strung next to other beads.

I think they might be Bakelite. Have a google search on Bakelite beads to see if they look similar.

That is what I was going to suggest…I have a few bakelite buttons that look like them…

Good suggestion, bakelite. So I read up on testing methods.

Amber floats in salt water.
The pale beads float in salt water. But I mentioned they look full of bubbles, right? That would make them buoyant. The rest of the beads sink promptly.

Amber glows in UV light.
None of these reacted to the UV, but I did notice the robovac is not doing a great job.

Bakelite, amber, and celluloid each have distinctive a odor when heated.
I used hot tap water; no odor from any of them. I heated the water in the microwave (of course I took the beads out first, do you think I’m an oaf?)
Still no odor, though I snuffled some water up my nose. Does that make me an oaf?

Conclusion: I must have Covid, and it has affected my sense of smell. I’ll try again in two weeks.

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Found two more testing options!

Friction smells: rub briskly (a very slightly rough surface, like denim, helps), then sniff.
I could smell a very faint odor, but couldn’t identify it. Covid must be getting better.

Baking Soda colors: dip a damp cloth or qtip into baking soda, then rub over the bead. Bakelite turns the cloth yellowish brown.
The dark brown beads turned the cloth noticeably yellow!
The orange and yellow beads turned the cloth brownish gray, probably dirt.
The glass bead test area looked so nice, I cleaned the whole bead with it.

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