Looking for a different Christmas present for that special lady in your life? Then Bakelite could be the way to go and if you have started to read my blog recently then you might of seen the word “Bakelite” mentioned a few times on here and could be wondering exactly what I’m talking about? Is this Bakelite something I have recently baked? Had my husband baked it (because I certainly don’t bake lol)? If those thoughts passed thru your head you would be incorrect, Bakelite is actually a plastic or its more technical name: “polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride” Say that 3 times fast..or say it at all 🙂
Bakelite was created by accident by Leo Baekeland (a scientist and a millionaire from selling his photographic paper patent to Kodak), in 1907 when he was trying to find a replacement for shellac and ended up creating one of the first plastics made from synthetic materials (discovered it would never melt). The plastics were used from everything from radio and telephone casings to kitchenware, jewellery (very popular due to its low cost to purchase especially during the depression) and even children’s toys (Wikipedia-Bakelite). World War 2 though brought the end of Bakelite production by the main producers of the plastic “Catalin Corp” due to the need to focus on the War effort and this saw new plastics like fiberglass, vinyl and lucite take its place in popularity.
-Picture from the Bakelite Museum in the UK-
Bakelite is now highly converted for its retro appeal by the mid-century vintage loving crowd. The jewellery more than anything and if you we’re to go on Etsy or eBay right this second you will see many pieces of Bakelite for sale at insane prices. As example…the Bakelite bracelet below called “Apple Juice” because of it’s colour is starting at $350 on ebay.
Don’t fear though, you can find Bakelite at lower prices than what I have shown here (especially if the vendor is not aware they are selling Bakelite or you win it on Ebay or you get a nice seller who sells it under value or the piece is not as fancy, etc.). ****CAUTION: REAL Bakelite is hard to spot unless you know some tricks to test the plastic or know trusted vendors online or in stores. Temperamental Broad has a great blog on Bakelite testing that is a must read if you wish to venture into purchasing a piece or two of your own. People will try to sell you fake Bakelite at high prices so proceed with caution.
In the Rockabilly & mid-century vintage crowd the women love their Bakelite and there is many a blog and online pictures with these beautiful women wearing gorgeous Bakelite bracelets (the plastic comes in the most beautiful colours and can be carved, inlaid or laminated with decorative designs thus making them the most popular). I have started my own collection myself and currently own a bracelet, brooch and earrings.
So with all that said, I will leave you with a some bakelite jewellary images to get you dreaming of beautiful bangles and broochs (to start) under the Christmas tree. -Liz