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.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Researching Costume Jewelry

Researching Costume Jewelry

Jewelry lovers, venture through this amazing database of vintage jewelry articles, catalogs, and brochures, as well… [read review or visit site]

Art Deco 1910-1939

Art Deco 1910-1939

This Victoria and Albert Museum has a terrific collection of Art Deco objects. On the VAM's website, you can learn … [read review or visit site]

Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry

Emerald City Vintage Costume Jewelry

It looks like we're not in Kansas anymore with Elizabeth Rowlands' site on vintage costume jewelry from the 1940s a… [read review or visit site]

Decopix

Decopix

Randy Juster's survey of Art Deco imagery and reference on all things Deco. Includes pages on murals, houses, gov… [read review or visit site]

Modernism

Modernism

This archived overview produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts offers thumbnail sketches of the design moveme… [read review or visit site]

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Morning Glory Antiques and Jewelry

Jewelry collectors, feast your eyes on this internet gem! It's a goldmine of jewelry information featuring all styl… [read review or visit site]

All About Jewels Dictionary

All About Jewels Dictionary

This incredible reference dictionary on jewelry, from Enchantedlearning.com, is both beautiful and comprehensive. S… [read review or visit site]

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

Cathy Gordon's Jewelry Gallery

With its vast galleries featuring clear images of jewelry and style, this site really covers it all! Divided up by … [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Genuine Art Deco Cherry Red Amber Bakelite Bead Necklace 52g Graduated Antique Art Deco Cherry Amber Bakelite Graduating Barrel Bead Necklace 34.3gRare Antique Art Deco Cherry Amber Bakelite Barrel Bead NecklaceLot Of 5 Vintage 1930's Rocking Horse Figural Red Bakelite Napkin Ring HoldersMiriam Haskell Butterscotch Bakelite & Amber Glass Bead Vintage NecklaceVintage Bakelite Green Scalloped Bangles - Simichrome Tested Vintage Carved Rockabilly Bakelite Tested Bangle Bracelet Set 5 Intl Ship Now!Vtg Antique Art Deco Bakelite Cherries Pin And Resin NecklacePair Of Turquoise Bakelite Bracelets Beautiful "robin's Egg" Blue; Slice Design!Vintage Art Deco Bakelite Link Red Bracelet BangleHuge Antique 177 Grams Real Cherry Amber Bakelite Tested Olive Beads NecklaceAntique Art Deco Green Bakelite & Glass Matching Necklace & Brooch Pin"dots & Daisies" Multi Colored Applejuice Dot & Bakelite Daisy Shaped Bangle!Five Vintage Bakelite Butterscotch & Red Bracelet Bangle Cuff TestedVintage 40's Bakelite Era Brown Celluloid Cute Scottie Dog Puppy BroochVintage Art Deco Bakelite Burgandy Box & 3 Bakelite Bracelets Collection/lot!!!!Vintage Carved Bakelite 1940s-1950s Wide Chunky Bangle BraceletLot Of 13 Carved Bakelite Bangle Bracelet Authentic Great Designs And Colors. Vintage Art Deco Cherry Amber Bakelite 19 Round Loose Beads For Necklace 79.9 GVintage Art Deco 36.5" Cherry Red Amber Bakelite ~ Graduated Bead NecklaceBakelite Antique Art Deco Vintage Necklace Pendant Bead Sour Apple Rare! 6079Vintage Art Deco Cherry Amber Bakelite Barrel Beads Necklace, Tested, 99 GramsRare Large Antique Butterscotch Bakelite Figural Pig Pin With Enamel DecorationAuguste Bonaz White & Black Galalith Signed Geometric Deco Necklace BakeliteLot Of 4 Vintage 1930's Bunny Rabbit Figural Red Bakelite Napkin Ring HoldersVintage Big Carved Brown Bakelite Bangle Bracelet Tested  1930 Art Deco Very Wide Deeply Carved Butterscotch Bakelite Bracelet No ReserveVintage Art Deco Cherry Red Amber Bakelite Bead 2 Row Bracelet Flower Clasp K773Huge Fantastic Vintage To Victorian Bakelite*deco*cameo*gold Fill& More Lot!Stunning Art Deco Chrome Bakelite Orange White Necklace Jakob Bengel ?Vintage Carved Bakelite Bangle BraceletHuge 1960s Rockabilly Swirl Red Carved Bakelite Era Lucite Bangle Bracelet Mint!Vintage Bakelite Egg Yolk Graduated Bead NecklaceVintage Art Deco Carved Amber Rootbeer Bakelite Tortoise Turtle Brooch Tested +Vintage Bakelite Brooch Pin Crossed Bowling Pins With Charms Please Look!Vintage Bakelite Horse Equestrian Brooch Pin - Niagara Falls, NyLovely Vintage Cherry Amber Bakelite Beads Necklace 48" Long (98) ½" Beads 149gVtg Bakelite Carved Chocolate Swirl Bangle Bracelet Vintage Bakelite Over Wood Brooch Pin Cute Red Frog! Hop On Over & Take A LookFine French Amber Bakelite Necklace 1940's . 95 Grams1920's Classic Art Deco Orange Marble & Black Bakelite Bangle Bracelet Rare FormVintage Bakelite On Wood Brooch Pin Butterscotch Butterfly Very Special!Egg Yolk Vintage Butterscotch Caramel Bakelite Beaded Necklace 25gPair Fabulous Vintage Iced Tea Scallop Edge Bakelite Bangle BraceletsVintage Bakelite Green Duck Napkin Ring-simichrome TestedStunning Lot Of 5 Marble Tube "lifesavers" Vtg Sliced Bakelite Bangle Bracelet Superb Antique Art Deco Carved Bakelite Faceted Cherry Amber Bead Necklace 34.8gMiriam Haskell Amazing Butterscotch Bakelite Golden Bead Necklace Earring SetVintage Bakelite Brooch Pin 4 Leaf Clover & Dice - Lucky 7 - Very Unusual - LookVintage Victorian Mourning Ring Black Bakelite With Male Deceased Photo Size 11Green Bakelite Catalin 3 Scotty Dog Pin - NrBakelite Polka Dot BangleVintage Carved & Painted Bakelite Brooch Pin Jai Alai Sport Player - Super PieceVintage Red Apple Juice Bakelite Brooch Pin Key & Heart Dangle Key To My Heart!Fine Art Deco Vintage Bakelite - Lemon & Lime - Stretch Panelled BraceletHuge 1960s Rockabilly Swirl Silver Carved Lucite Bakelite Era Bangle Bracelet!Antique Bakelite Real Butterscotch Egg Yolk Bracelet 70.5 Grams. Old Vintage Bakelite Tested Yellow & Black Bangle Bracelet - Intl Shipping Now!Beautiful Vintage Ribbed Carved Green Bakelite Bangle Bracelet Gorgeous OnVintage Reverse Carved Apple Juice Bakelite Rhinestones Clamper Cuff Bracelet

Recent News: Bakelite Costume Jewelry

Source: Google News

The Week in Healdsburg: August 24-31
Santa Rosa Press Democrat, August 23rd

“The park will be filled with an eclectic mix of folk art, sterling silver, country furniture, Bakelite and vintage jewelry, Persian rugs, art pottery, antique prints and maps, vintage posters, postcards, toys, garden art, accessories and decorative...Read more

Moving to a Smaller Home, and Decluttering a Lifetime of Belongings
New York Times, August 22nd

But the value of valuables can be cyclical, warned Ms. Sherlock, who noted that 1950s and mid-modern furniture “is hot, and so is Bakelite jewelry, but something else that people love may just not be popular. A lot of younger people just don't want to...Read more

The Week in Healdsburg: August 17-24
Santa Rosa Press Democrat, August 16th

“The park will be filled with an eclectic mix of folk art, sterling silver, country furniture, Bakelite and vintage jewelry, Persian rugs, art pottery, antique prints and maps, vintage posters, postcards, toys, garden art, accessories and decorative...Read more

Bakelite bags are back: Marylou Luther
The Plain Dealer - cleveland.com (blog), August 13th

Sawaf, a native of India, has a background in fashion design and gemology. She has created jewelry for Gianfranco Ferre, Roberto Cavalli and Valentino. After living in Dubai, she moved to Los Angeles, where she brought the couture aesthetic of her...Read more

Judy Foreman: On Peregrine Galleries' 30th Anniversary, the Scent of a Woman ...
Noozhawk, August 10th

Peregrine Galleries specializes in collectible vintage designer jewelry by Bakelite, from the 1930s until about 1950 — the same time period for Taxco and Miriam Haskell jewelry. Her collections include pieces by Georg Jensen (1903-1940s) and early...Read more