Telcer / Telart Onyx

Onyx telephone
Onyx telephone
Onyx telephone handset
Onyx telephone handset

Made to look like an antique telephone, it is certainly not what it seems. That said, many of these are over 40 years old and vintage in their own right. Produced since the late 1960s, there are many versions of these telephones. Although the onyx probably comes from Pakistan, most of these telephones were produced in Italy. The vast majority were made by Telcer and Telart, but it is unclear if they are the same company or if the one produced these telephones for the other. If that is the case, it is likely Telart is the former and Telcer the latter. Telcer is a well-known Italian telephone manufacturer, specialising in antiquesque and novelty telephones, while Telart (Telefoni Artistici) is known for making onyx instruments, like clocks and telephones.

Onyx telephone Heemaf dial
Onyx telephone Heemaf dial

Whichever manufacter’s name is on the telephone, although many telephones are unmarked, the both used the same housings, cradle assembly’s, handsets and dial faces in seeming endless combinations of these various components.

Onyx telephone price list
Onyx telephone price list

So it looks like there never was a standard design and, when unmarked, you cannot tell which of the 2 companies made it. Assuming there were only those two manufacturers, of course. These phones are often described as being made of marble, but real marble does not exist in the colour green.

Under the hood

Onyx telephone inside
Onyx telephone inside

In 2016 I was happy to finally get one of these telephones and look inside. And I was very much surprised to find what made up my specimen. Many of the technical components were not newly produced, but recycled from older telephones that were at some point apparently cannibalised for their parts. Inside the handset were two plastic cups from a German FeTAp 61, holding the transmitter and receiver elements, who were from the Dutch PTT. Inside the telephone itself was an old ringer and hook switch made by Face Standard, an Italian telephone manufacturer. These were once part of an older telephone, possibly an Italian S63. The dial mechanism turned out to be made by Heemaf in the Netherlands for the T65 telephone, to which a new shiny brass finger wheel was added. These telephone parts were probably obtained from obsolete equipment and unwanted stock, sold off by national telephone companies. Everything was quickly thrown together, without any regards for quality or workmanship. In mine the ringer was loose inside the housing, held in place by a piece of thick paper that was torn from a 1973 price list of marble clocks and telephones.