Pearloid, colloquially known as “mother of toilet seat”, is the material used to make that nice and fancy pattern on the fretboard markings of Gibson guitars, Gibson copies, as well as the pickguards of various Strats and Strat-style guitars.
Pearloid is made by celluloid plastic chunks being swirled together in a solvent. These chunks are then sliced into sheets and bonded to laminates.
Many decide to dye the pearloid, to give it a more ‘aged’ look! Nobody wants a bright shiny scratchplate on a vintage guitar…
Feeling crafty and want to make your own? See these baking recipes, using clay, which you can try yourself!
Who Used Pearloid First?
Gibson got into Pearloid in the 1930s, and are the guitar brand most commonly associated with the mother-of-pearl look.
Real Mother of Pearl is created naturally using the lining of shellfish including oysters and mollusks… It goes without saying that this can be difficult and expensive to obtain. Pearloid uses plastic to create a similar visual effect.
Some of their more expensive guitars still do use real Mother of Pearl, however synthetic Pearloid is the norm. This is a key part of both the SG and Les Paul look, which is often used as one of the ways to spot whether a Gibson is genuine or not.
Gibson are not alone in their taste, though. In 1933, a guitar named ‘The Pearl’ was brought to us guitar maker Martin – The Martin D45.
‘The Pearl’ is used by the likes of Neil Young and Gene Autry, and only 91 of them were made between 1931 and 1941. Obviously, they now cost more than most of us would like to imagine!
30 years later, during the “CBS takeover”, Fender joined in, and nowadays it is not uncommon to spot pearloid scratchplates on both Fenders and Fender copies worldwide.
Where Else is Pearloid Used?
This material isn’t made just for Les Paul fretboard markings and Stratocaster scratchplates!
Pearloid is used in guitar plectrums and on particularly snazzy drum shells.
Outside of rock music…
Pearloid is often used on hand fans, buttons and toilet seats! At least one quirky creator has even made a guitar body from a toilet seat.
Have you seen pearloid being used in any weird and wonderful ways?