Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fantastic Plastic

One of my favourite items to sell is bakelite. Especially jewelry. I don't quite know what it is about bakelite that intrigues me so but I know whenever I find it I do the happy dance. Perhaps it's just one of those reminders, a nostalgia for the past, or maybe it's that it isn't made any more and I feel so happy about preserving it? When it comes to bakelite jewelry though I'm almost sure it's the colour.
Gorgeous reds, greens, yellows, and blues and several colours in between, shiny or matte carved or smooth as a baby's.... you get the picture. It's stunning and whimsical and oh so easy to wear. And depending on where you live it's very plentiful. 

Okay so, a little history; Bakelite is an early plastic, the official nomenclature for it is unpronounceable so I'll use it's other official name: Thermosettting phenol formaldehyde resin. Developed in New York in 1907 by Belgiun born chemist Leo Baekeland. It was used initially as an insulator in electrical items as it was prized for it's heat resistance and non conductivity. Insulators, radio and telephone casings, toys and jewelry were just a few of the many uses for this versatile plastic often referred to as "the material of a 1000 uses."
The use of bakelite for jewelry became popular in the 1930's. Figural brooches, and carved bangles being among the most desirable for collectors but many many plane bangles were made and can be purchased relatively cheaply on the bakelite jewelry market.  

Being a Canadian I'm unfortunately in the land of the few, the bakelite market is not strong here but I do find pieces like these simple bangles occasionally. I'm hoping for the day when a fabulous figural brooch comes my way, and when it does, I'm keeping it!

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