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A milky latex obtained from any of several tropical trees of the sapodilla family native to the Malaysian peninsula. Most commercial production of gutta-percha comes from the Palaquium gutta and Palaquium oblongifoia trees. First introduced to London in 1843 by Dr William Montgomerie, gutta-percha is a tough, pliable, moldable rubber-like material though it lacks the elasticity of rubber. On exposure to air and sunlight, gutta-percha oxidizes and becomes brittle. Gutta-percha vulcanizes with sulfur into a hard, waterproof material. From the late 1840s, it was widely used for golf balls, imitation leather, joints in doll limbs, electrical insulation (especially underwater cables), and dental fillings. The name gutta-percha was sometimes used for any dark coloured molding material.

Synonyms and Related Terms

trans-polyisoprene; gutapercha (Esp.); gutta-percha (Fr.); guttaperca (It); gutta percha; guttapercha

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Soluble in carbon disulfide, ligroin, turpentine and chloroform.
  • Insoluble in water.
  • Melting Point = 100

Resources and Citations

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 384
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • George Savage, Art and Antique Restorer's Handbook, Rockliff Publishing Corp, London, 1954
  • Pam Hatchfield, Pollutants in the Museum Environment, Archetype Press, London, 2002
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The Merck Index, Martha Windholz (ed.), Merck Research Labs, Rahway NJ, 10th edition, 1983 Comment: entry 4611
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • History of Plastic:

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