The manufacture of Bois Durci was patented in Paris in 1856 by Francois Lepage and was achieved by mixing a very fine sawdust, usually ebony or rosewood, with albumen-the sticky substance found in blood or eggs- and combining the two in a steel mould under heat and pressure. In fact it could be considered one of the earliest plastics. The steel mould produced a highly polished surface, as well as allowing for very intricate mouldings. Bois Durci- a literal translation is “hardened wood”- was used to manufacture a wide range of utilitarian and decorative objects that were hard wearing and much cheaper to create than making them by hand. Bois Durci was used to make jewellery, boxes, frames, decorative plaques, knife handles, inkstands and desk accessories such as paperweights and blotters. The list goes on and on. Probably the best known, and most collected, are the circular ornamental plaques with raised relief impressions of European royalty and other notable people in the political and artistic spheres. These are around 120mm or 4.5 inches in diameter and date from the last half of the nineteenth century. Items made from Bois Durci continued to be made up until the 1920’s, but it was eventually supplanted by modern plastics.