Bakelite was an early plastic resin, developed by Leo Baekeland in 1907. Originally used for industrial purposes thanks to its ability to withstand heat, molded Bakelite and its cast cousin, Catalin, made the jump to costume jewelry in the 1920s and had their heyday in the 1930s and ’40s.
Costume-jewelry manufacturers were attracted to Bakelite for numerous reasons. First, it was hard enough to cut and polish, which made it a terrific choice for everything from brooches to beads to bracelets, its most popular application. Techniques ranged from scratching the surface lightly in repeated or decorative patterns to outright carving. Some carved pieces have deep valleys and furrows; others sport patterns that suggest the outside of a pineapple or the facets of a jewel.
Equally appealing was Bakelite’s range of colors, which were given names like Creamed Corn, Butterscotch, Egg Yolk, and Salmon. Some types of Bakelite were marbled—Mississippi Mud, Creamed Spinach, and Chocolate Sundae capture the character of these mixed hues beautifully. Less common was translucent Bakelite in Root Beer, Lime Jell-O, and Cherry Juice.
While some Bakelite costume jewelry was fashioned from solid blocks of a single color, many more began as laminated pieces, in which horizontal or zigzag layers of complementary colors were combined. Sometimes pieces were laminated to create polka dots; other times polka dots were hand painted on an object’s surface, and in the 1950s polka dots and gumdrop shapes were injected into Bakelite during the manufacturing process itself.
Of the brooches and pins, one of the most popular treatments during the Art Deco 1930s was to combine Ebony Bakelite—an imitation of the jet pieces from the Victorian era—with rhinestones or inlaid silver. Egyptian motifs were in vogue, as were pins in the shapes of animals (cats, camels, dogs, birds) and plants, especially flowers and clusters of dangling cherries. Especially collectible are the World War II era MacArthur Hearts, which consisted of a 3-by-3-inch key-shaped pin, from which dangled a puffy red heart with a keyhole in its center—it was sold with a card that read "He holds the key to my heart."
The most famous use of Bakelite in jewelry was as bracelets. Many of these were formed of large, block- or medallion-shaped beads that were strung together on strips of elastic. Other Bakelite bracelets were hinged, carved into the shapes of serpents, or left open at the back so they could be easily slipped onto a wrist. Some bracelets incorporated chrome accents into their designs, others combined Bakelite with Czech glass.
But the most collectible types of Bakelite bangles are the so-called Philadelphia bracelets, which take their name from a Philadelphia auction in 1985 that featured two of these remarkable pieces. Philadelphia bracelets are always laminated in colors that include green, red, and yellow. The best pieces are hinged, and feature either multicolor laminated wedges or individually colored slices that have been glued onto the bracelet body, which is usually a rich shade of Butterscotch.
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Spoon jewelry gives Sioux City man solace, source of income after injurySioux City Journal, December 2nd
But he finds solace in making jewelry. He has done bracelets for children and rings for men – even wind chimes out of spoons and knives. When he needs a break from bending silver, Ken creates necklaces from Bakelite, a type of plastic that was once...Read more
Art in the Park to stage Holiday FairMartinsburg Journal, November 27th
Their talents produce paintings, glasswork, jewelry, sculpture, fibers, wood, metal and much more. This Saturday at Susan Coppage Parker has Deco-Ration, one-of-a-kind Art Deco inspired brooches made from Bakelite, celluloid, and other vintage pieces...Read more
12 Genius Uses for ToothpasteYahoo Canada Shine On, November 18th
Polish jewelry. Apply a thin film of toothpaste to dull stones or tarnished metal with a soft toothbrush or cloth. Polish gently, rinse with water, and dry. If the tarnishing is heavy, apply a thicker coat and let it sit for an hour. Do not use...Read more
28th Antique Stocking Stuffers Show and SaleNews-Antique.com (press release), November 17th
35 for 4.5 miles and making a left onto N. Salem Rd. Merchandise is limited to antique, estate and vintage costume jewelry; antique and estate silver and silver-related items and a general line of antiques and collectibles measuring no more than 6...Read more
The CFDA Goes PopStyle.com, November 8th
"It has really broadened," she added, noting, in particular, the strong mix of jewelry designers making the cut this go-around. "I love Mark David—colorful Bakelite and diamonds!" Much of the evening's buzz concerned this Monday night's announcement...Read more
'Wine, Jewelry, Chocolate' Benefit Event for CALM a Sweet SuccessNoozhawk, November 6th
The event spanned four hours when 30 jewelry designers helped attendees try on and purchase beautiful creations. Vendors included the Bakelite Lady, Calla Gold, Caroline Rutledge, Casa Viva, Guitar String Jewelry, Helen Heising, MaryAnn Tiques, Miss ...Read more