Finding And Buying Bakelite Jewelry

Posted on: 20 July 2015

Bakelite jewelry is the most sought after plastic in the world of estate jewelry. The jewelry is somewhat rare, as it was only manufactured for three decades. Bakelite that you discover at estate sales is likely to be in good condition, as the plastic is known for its durability. Bakelite is very sought after and is considered a collectable. If you are a regular at estate or garage sales, it would behoove you to familiarize yourself with Bakelite and to scoop it up if you find some.

What is Bakelite?

Bakelite is heavy, fire resistant plastic that was manufactured in the United States in the first half of the 20th Century. Bakelite was originally used in industrial manufacturing for its durability and ability to resist melting. In the 1920's, Bakelite was discovered by fashion designers and began to be made into jewelry. during the 1930's and 1940's, Bakelite surged in popularity with the introduction of new designs and colors. Designers like Coco Chanel were making jewelry out it, and other designers followed suit. The advent of World War II halted the production of Bakelite as jewelry, as the plastic was needed for the war effort. Andy Warhol collected Bakelite in the 1980's, which brought attention to this type of jewelry and made it more collectible.

What does Bakelite look like?

Bakelite comes in just about every color, with red, yellow, green, clear, and brown seen the most. Designs and carvings in the jewelry, as well as two colors mixed together to produce a marbleized pattern can also be found. The most common kinds of jewelry that you will find are bracelets, pins, and necklaces.

How to test a piece to see if it is real Bakelite

There is a lot of imitation Bakelite out there, as well as sellers who think that they have authentic Bakelite when in reality it is not. There are a few different tests you can perform to see if you have the real deal on your hands.

  • The household cleaner test. Bakelite is the only plastic that forms a patina over time. This patina can be wiped off with a cotton swab dipped in a household cleaner that contains lauramine oxide and ethanolamine. If the piece is Bakelite, the swab will turn yellow.
  • The heat and sniff test. Bakelite has a distinct smell when heated, which some people liken to camphor or paint varnish. You can heat up a piece of Bakelite by vigorously rubbing your finger on it and then smelling, or by running the piece under hot water.

For more information about antique jewelry, visit Rhonda's Jewelry.