The “legendary” definition of FATURAN sometimes referred to as Amber Faturan is as follows, a mixture of natural amber, resins and incense. The technique of sticking together the shavings of amber together with a mixture of secret natural resins and incense to turn it into a solid material is unknown until today. This method was invented by an Arab named Faturan in the 19th century some even go as far as the 17th century, and that material carried his name ever since.
In fact the most famous reference for beads, the book titled, The History of Beads From 30,000 BC To The Present, by L.S. Dubin, does not mention the word Faturan, not even one single time ! This clearly indicates that the word Faturan and its legend were simply invented some time after 1987, date at which the above book was published.
However the true story is that the material designated as FATURAN is a material that derives from BAKELITE which itself was developed in 1907-1909 by the Belgian chemist Dr. Leo Baekland. Bakelite is basically a thermosetting phenol formaldehyde synthetic resin.
Faturan is therefore not more than 100 years old as it is existence is posterior to that of Bakelite. The first Bakelite arrived to the East Mediterranean mostly Turkey in the form of drawers and furniture knobs and handles around 1909/1911. This is the time when the first prayer bead strands tesbih made of what we know call Faturan started to appear on the market.
The bead carvers, mainly in Istanbul, were swift to understand that Bakelite was a material with a lot of potential: it could be easily and well carved, had a great appearance and clicking sound, could imitate and replace amber, was very solid and could sustain a lot of heat. So they started making their own Bakelite, mixing it with natural, vegetal or synthetic dyes, amber powder, all kind of fillers, additives, etc… Each master carver also had his own secret “recipe”, sometimes heating or frying in various oils and liquids, making the material undergo various physical or chemical processes to obtain the most beautiful aspect. This is the material that we call GENUINE Faturan today.
The original and GENUINE Faturan beads were mainly, red, orange or yellow in all shades. The last GENUINE Faturan beads were made in the 1940’s mainly because of the 2nd World War when the supply of raw material became very scarce. Normally the last GENUINE Faturan beads date to the late 1940’s – eventually very early 1950’s – when the supply of raw material that was still left from the pre war stocks was terminated. After the 2nd World War the production stopped due to the general severe restrictions that prevailed all over the world.
The demand for GENUINE Faturan – often confused with amber – has always been great among prayer beads, tesbih and komboloi collectors. This demand has tremendously increased the last 10 years so that a great amount of “fake” Faturan has come into the market. By “fake” is meant newly manufactured phenolic resins – of all kinds – purposely or ignorantly presented as GENUINE Faturan.
The result of this situation is that, today, there is a very big confusion in the usage of the word “FATURAN” as well as about its true origin and real definition, to the extent that practically any kind of phenolic resin – even newly produced – is unjustly called Faturan.
I sincerely hope this little presentation will help the reader differentiate between GENUINE Faturan and the newly made imitations.