Bakelite is a synthetic resin formed from the combination of phenols and formaldehydes. The method for producing Bakelite was devised in 1909 by L.H. Baekeland, and the Bakelite name is a registered trademark of the Union Carbide Corporation. It achieved popularity as jewelry in the 1930s and 1940s. It was first used for household products like salt and pepper shakers. Chatelaine's Antiques Collectibles Appraisals

 

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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Jewelry > Our Opinion: Bakelite: Not Your Average Bangle


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BAKELITE: NOT YOUR AVERAGE BANGLE


 

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Dear Chatelaine's Antiques & Collectibles,
My friend just inherited these two wonderful pieces from her grandmother. They're plastic and she told me that they're made of Bakelite? I've never heard of it. What is it?
S. B., New York

Dear S.B,
Bakelite is a synthetic resin formed from the combination of phenols and formaldehydes. The method for producing Bakelite was devised in 1909 by L.H. Baekeland, and the Bakelite name is a registered trademark of the Union Carbide Corporation. It achieved popularity as jewelry in the 1930s and 1940s. It was first used for household products like salt and pepper shakers.

Bakelite jewelry was well suited to the social atmosphere of the 1930s and 1940s. It offered a reasonably priced alternative to expensive material, and the bright colors allowed women's fashion to become more flamboyant.

Bakelite is known for its vivid colors. Manufacturers made it in green, yellow, orange, and like your friend's pieces pictured here butterscotch and red.

To make sure you've got a piece of Bakelite, you have to use almost all your senses. Bakelite makes a clunking sound when you tap it, and it smells like formaldehyde. A final check to authenticate Bakelite is the Simichrome test. Simichrome is a metal polish you can find at most hardware stores. Put some on a white towel. Then rub the towel on your jewelry. If it's Bakelite, the towel will turn yellow.

 
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These books now available from Amazon:

The Bakelite Jewelry Book
by Corinne Davidov, Ginny Dawes

Bakelite Bangle: Price & Identification Guide
by Karima Parry

The Bakelite Collection
by Matthew Burkholz