I am a collector of antique photography and gutta percha cases. One of the more interesting gutta perchas in my collection is one that dealers call, for obvious reasons, an Oreo. When this Oreo is taken apart (you like to take them apart, don't you?), it reveals a locket-like tintype.
Gutta percha is a rubber that comes from the sap of the gutta percha plant, which is indigenous to Southeast Asia.
The gutta percha sap has a latex-like quality, and it can be molded and hardened. I've read that certain Malaysian tribes would smear the gutta percha on the soles of their feet to produce what must have essentially been permanent shoes or sandals.
Gutta percha was embraced by Westerners in the mid-1800s and was used to fabricate all sorts of things, like buttons, combs and ink wells. Gutta percha was used (and still is today) for dental fillings. It also revolutionized the golf ball. And because it was a good electrical insulator, it was used in the laying of the transatlantic telegraph cable.