Identifying and Collecting Bakelite and Lucite Jewelry
Check out our latest selection of Bakelite Jewelry
What is Bakelite? Bakelite was created by Belgium Scientist Leo Baekeland in 1907 when trying to develop an alternative for shellac which was used to cover woodwork. The result was not what he had expect, but did give the world a new material to create everything from ladies jewelry to telephone cases and electrical insulators.
The evolution of non-precious material jewelry a.k.a costume jewelry started with Celluloid back in the mid 1800's. Celluloid is highly collectible but has a drawback in that one it's flammable and second it can get diseased. Yes your Celluloid piece can start to deteriorate and can give the infliction to other pieces of jewelry in your collection.
With the invention of Bakelite also known as Catalin as an industrial material was heat resistant and could be made in a multitude of colors, more on that later. This lent itself to making of costume jewelry from bracelets or bangles to brooches, pins and necklaces.
How do we identify Bakelite? The easiest test that we use when out picking for Bakelite is the wet Q-tip test. Yes, no fancy tests need for the road warrior, the wife carries water wetted Q-tips in a plastic bag in her purse. Just rub the Q-tip on the item to be tested and no matter what color it is a Nicotine colored stain will appear on your Q-tip.
The Bakelite collector market has created wild color definitions to describe Bakelite pieces. Cherry Cream Soda, Apricot, Butterscotch, Mustard, Creamed Spinach, Paprika, Apple Juice, Iced Tea and such.
Next, there are single colored pieces and then there are multi-colored pieces that can be know as marbled, swirled and even Mississippi mud. These colors if more than two are also called "end of day" and that bumps up the interest in collectors. These pieces were created by the worker mixing whatever he or she had left from the days orders and dumped them together making a beautiful mixture of colors in the piece.
Bangles came in different shapes which are described by how the looked being domed, squared or even flying saucer shaped.
Different types of bakelite jewelry
What are collectors looking for? Colors "end of day", transparent or translucent pieces, deeply carved and size.
During the 1940s the DuPont Corporation created a plastic like material which was called Lucite. Again the jewelry makers started to move the focus away from Bakelite and towards Lucite. Today Lucite International created from ICI and Dupont continue to make items from even more advanced materials.
How do we identify Lucite from Bakelite? Lucite will leave no stain on our Q-tip test and the piece will be much lighter in weight than Bakelite. If your hit two pieces of Lucite together you will get a distinctive "click" sound and not a "clunk" sound when doing the same test with two pieces of Bakelite.
Lucite was in its heyday from the 1950's through 1960's when other forms of plastic took over the manufacturing lines.
Got questions for us just drop a comment below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time, Indy