Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Jewelry
> Our Opinion: Bakelite: Not Your Average Bangle
More Bakelite Jewelry
A feature series on Bakelite
BAKELITE: NOT YOUR AVERAGE
Got a question you've been dying to ask, but don't know who to turn to?
Now you do. When it comes to antiques and collectibles, there's no better
source than Chatelaine's Antiques, Collectibles & Appraisals. And if we
don't have the answer ourselves, we can turn to any one of our expert specialists for help.
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
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.
What about you? Got a question for Chatelaine's Antiques, Collectibles & Appraisals? Send your questions and photos to
These books now available from Amazon:
Bakelite Jewelry Book
by Corinne Davidov, Ginny Dawes
Bangle: Price & Identification Guide
by Karima Parry
by Matthew Burkholz