Any warped or distorted piece (Fig. Besides being flammable, it grew brittle and fell apart over time. It still refers to these materials but is frequently used as a generic name for phenol formaldehyde (Phenolic). 13 Hinge fastened with tiny nails. 9 The three most widely used materials to test Bakelite. . Bakelite is the trade name for plastics produced by Bakelite Ltd. in England and Bakelite Corp. in America. However, old Bakelite jewelry is still quite sought-after, and a lot of collectors are willing to pay large sums for the old, retro designs before the middle of the 20 th century. Analytical cookies collect data anonymously, about how visitors use our site and how it performs. Modern plastics and other look-alike materials do not produce any odor when held under hot water produced by the average household hot water heater. Test swab shows ivory/pale yellow. Warnings signs of typical reproductions, copies and look-alike Bakelite are shown at the top of the next page. It's Not A Comeback: These Recycled Plastics Deserve A Second Life In Your Home, Mini Horse Overcomes the Odds with Help from Plastic Prosthesis. Fig. Since brand names rarely appear on the products, collectors generally use "Bakelite" to refer to all of the thermosetting phenolic resins, not just to the Bakelite brand products and that's how we'll use the term. Bakelite is a trade name for an early form of plastic called phenolic resin. Brightly colored vintage Bakelite was used for many items other than jewelry. Opt out is not available. Left to right: 409 household cleaner, Scrubbing Bubbles bathroom cleaner and Simichrome Polish. When the mold was opened, the final piece was essentially ready for sale. Bakelite was the first thermosetting plastic. . 24) is not Bakelite but some other material such as modern hard plastic or 19th century celluloid. Fig. Vintage tool marks are, however, at the very least, tumbled and rounded off, never jagged or sharp. Since genuine Bakelite produces a patina, outer surfaces on truly vintage pieces should normally be darker than protected inner surfaces. Workers would then slice off various widths from the tube, decorate, and polish them by hand. 19). Dampen one end of a cotton swab with the liquid household cleaner. 5 Typical pieces sliced directly from stock cylinders and blocks as shown in Catalin advertisement. Today, Bakelite is still produced in sheet, rod and tube form for industrial applications in the electronics, power generating and aerospace industries. For example, it was resistant to heat and would not conduct electricity, so it was a really good insulator—which made it particularly useful in the automotive and electrical industries emerging in the early 1900s. Glued hardware is a also a sign of modern pieces, or at the very least, a repair. A few partially synthetic plastics were invented in the 1800s. The great majority of Bakelite jewelry was made by hand from stock shapes of raw material. Fig. Fig. Right, piece sliced from block on left showing original color concealed below original surface. An example of typical color change is shown in Fig. Jewelry, and designer objects made from Bakelite, Casein and Celluloid appeared at the 1925 Paris exhibition from which Art Deco got its name. How to Decide if it's Old, Repro, Fake or a Look-alike. Can We Recycle Flexible Plastic Packaging? These plastics have inspired fashion designers to do more with less: more fabric choices, more creativity, and more durability, coupled often with less material, less weight, fewer wrinkles, and less expense. Fig. Fig. Anyone could buy the raw Bakelite material and small studios and amateurs could afford to experiment with their own jewelry designs. 19). Hold the piece so an edge is in the middle of the flow. Bakelite is another name for phenolic resin, an early form of plastic.Today, objects made from Bakelite are considered highly collectible, although in its glory days of the 1930s and 1940s, it was seen as an inexpensive alternative to high-end jewelry materials such as … Then there are the plastics in my car, my office furniture, my campus telephone … the list goes on. Some Bakelite pieces are a mixture of colors swirled together, like this yellowy green "creamed spinach" or this swirled red. As prices have risen, so has the tendency for sellers, either through lack of knowledge or deliberate intent, to call any piece of plastic, "Bakelite." Consumers primarily were attracted to its aesthetic qualities: a sleek, stylish look coupled with a substantial, high-end feel. You can still find a lot of products made out of Bakelite in antique stores. Apply to a small, hidden area such as the back side of a pin or inside of a bracelet. History is shaped by the materials we develop and use. Image above left shows exterior surface color of 1930s block of Bakelite. Grinding marks with a frosted, chalky appearance are typical signs of recent carving. Bakelite is made from carbolic acid (phenol) and formaldehyde and is referred to as a phenolic resin. That’s so both because of the novelty factor of it and the idea of collecting something with so much history in it, as well as the fact that Bakelite jewelry was indeed different then than what it is now. Eye “glasses”? Shown here as knob and handle on Art Deco chrome creamer. This article will explain how originals were made, the simple tests anyone can use to separate genuine Bakelite from look-alike, and the common warning signs of new, fake and reproduction pieces. Virtually all authentic Bakelite jewelry was hand machined or carved and should show some tool marks. Bakelite is a type of plastic that is made under high heat, but it cannot be recycled. (For example, civilizations in Central America have played games with rubber balls for nearly 3,600 years.). Bakelite bargains still exist, but it is rare to find anything other than dress clips and buttons for less than $10. Plastics formed from other formulas can be reshaped after reheating or will burst into flame if reheated. In other words, to get a dog pin, you'd pour plastic into a dog-shaped mold. It is made from a compound of nitrocellulose and camphor which is quite flammable. Fig. Fig. Beware of shiny hardware with no sign of normal age or wear. One way to start learning about Bakelite identification is listening for … 20, to make a piece of "jewelry." The originals sell for $75-$100. 1960s. Genuine vintage jewelry that is plain and low value, is frequently carved into more desirable and higher priced designs. Note tarnishing in hinge, common in vintage hardware. The mold would create all the details of the finished product such as fur, eyes, collar, etc. Fig. The introduction of Bakelitethe worlds first synthetic plasticin 1907 marked the introduction of the Polymer Age. The buckles in Fig. Tool marks in hidden areas are more obvious than marks on exposed surfaces. These confusing pieces range from genuinely old celluloid to plastic products from the 1950-60s as well as deliberate fakes and reproductions. But it wasn’t always this way. Surfaces of reworked or newly carved pieces are sometimes completely polished on all sides, regardless if the surface is exposed or hidden. All true Bakelite, regardless of surface color (Figs. 5 were sliced from tubes extruded with the buckle shapes preformed. Scrubbing Bubbles can dull the original finish; Simichrome will leave the tested area with a higher shine; 409 leave the surface virtually unchanged and is the best choice. 16 Tool marks on the back side of a typical vintage pin. Warning Signs of Look-alike, Copies and Reproductions. Typical knob on pot lid shown here. A New Study Points To Plastics, The Ultimate Guide to Recycling, Reusing and Repurposing Plastic Items, Plastics Recycling: Poised for Further Growth, Recycling Helps Keep Plastics Out Of Our Oceans. Reproductions are now common and there has been a steady increase in reworked and "married" pieces. Most non-Bakelite products are not affected by the products, but you should always be careful and carefully wash and wipe dry all tested areas to prevent any possible long-term changes. 19 Mold seam on inside of bangles shown in Fig. After the 1950s, a large variety of plastics appeared in the marketplace and edged out Bakelite in all but a few specialized (mostly electrical) uses. 17) and offered as vintage Bakelite. Many old movies made on nitrocellulose turned to useless powder on storage. You can make Bakelite. Remember That Time You Really Needed Plastic? In 1984, a so-called "Philadelphia" Bakelite bracelet–a hinged style with multicolored wedges on top–sold for $250. Remember, even if a piece passes the cotton swab test, it doesn't mean the hardware is original. Fig. It came in several colors, including translucent and marbled shades by the 1950s. The same tests described in this article for Bakelite jewelry also apply to these other objects. During the reaction, a water-thin, water-clear, highly reactive solution is transformed into a ruby-red, glassy solid that will withstand heat and the effects of most chemicals. The Chinese are making something the rest of us call "fakelite". Celluloid—made primarily from plant cellulose and camphor—was created in the 1850s and still is in wide use. Plastics help protect and improve our vision, Innovations in Medical Care Made Possible by Plastics, 5 Remarkable Heart Health Innovations Made Possible by Plastics, From Burlap to Bikinis: A Women’s Swimwear Timeline, Eco Fashion Styles at New York Fashion Week, Plastic Fashion Innovations with Gretta Monahan. America's Plastics Makers™, Why Are We Creating Less Garbage? Once you determine a piece is made from genuine Bakelite, it doesn't mean you have proved the piece is necessarily old. 7 Dark green Bakelite. I cannot imagine life without modern plastics. The jewelry was made popular by entertainers such as Carmen Miranda. Tool marks should also be logical. It fails both the cotton swab and hot water tests. Fig. The swab test is effective on virtually all Bakelite. Bakelite is still produced. We use this to improve our products, services and user experience. Although Bakelite was the trade name of the first thermosetting phenolic resin, it was not the only one. Formaldehyde is used in science classes to preserve specimens, so try to remember what your high school biology class smelled like. Phenolic is usually reinforced with a filler (inert) material added to a polymer to improve its Antique Bakelite items—from household appliances to jewelry—today are displayed in museums and sold for large sums. 1 Today's market is filled with look-alike Bakelite. Bangle/bracelet cylinder shown top row, 3rd from left. Baekeland called his plastic “Bakelite.” (I guess that sounded better than “Leolite.”) Its properties made it suited for a much wider variety of purposes than its predecessors. This old but never-used stock, can be carved today (Fig. Fig. Use the thinnest edge available for best results. Fig. Because decorating was done by hand, special designs and small custom orders could easily be made without the overhead of expensive molds required by hard plastics. Always ask the seller's permission before making any tests. Bakelite makes a distinct sound when clicked together, and women wore the bangles stacked one on the other. Then in 1909, a Belgian chemist named Leo Baekeland created the first entirely synthetic plastic—and it would revolutionize the way many consumer goods were manufactured. Mold seams are common in ordinary plastics. One of the more obvious signs that a piece could not possibly be a piece of Bakelite is a mold seam. It ushered in the rapid growth of plastics that we now use every day in so many ways to improve our lives: medical devices that help save lives … athletic gear that enables peak performance … packaging that helps keep our food safer and fresher … clothing that keeps us cool or warm …. Original metal findings almost always shows some tarnish or even rust. The most common exceptions are pieces of genuine Bakelite that have recently been completely polished or cleaned and the original patina has been removed. Used in manufacturing machinable phenolics or micarta. Other important trade or brand names include Catalin, Marblette, Prystal, Phenolia and a number of others. Bakelite was made with a formaldehyde resin and will give off a formaldehyde smell when warm. That means once a Bakelite product is formed, it will not change shape or melt under heat. Fig. 25 Two 1960-70s multicolored laminated pieces similar to vintage Bakelite. It will not conduct heat or electricity. 11-28-2020, 12:15 AM #3. Unlike other plastics, authentic Bakelite oxidizes over the years developing a patina which changes the surface color. Catalin was a phenolic resin brand competing with Bakelite. Fig. The Russians even used it to manufacture magazines in rifles and structural aircraft components. The vast majority of genuine Bakelite gives off a strong phenol odor similar to paint remover or varnish. Bakelite's unique properties lent itself to extrusion casting. Bakelite is a trade name taken from its inventor, Leo Baekeland, who invented Bakelite in 1907. Collectors prize genuine Bakelite products originally marketed to the middle and lower classes because it was cheap to make … Read about Art Deco Radios from all over the world. (Fig. Fig. 18 Plastic bangles with molded carvings, ca. As the industrial revolution created huge demand for materials, chemists began seriously searching for new sources of materials—and new materials. Because of this, it gets transformed into a thermosetting plastic. Features of Typical Vintage Bakelite Jewelry. . Original Bakelite items are collectibles, but reproductions and original Bakelite-style jewelry is still made with polyurethane resin. That was even worse. Old stock pieces were worked into designs in the 50s and into the 60s, but they don't turn up that often. Tapping Items Together. Bakelite products included jewelry and the cases for radios. Exposure to sunlight, body fluids, cosmetics and other factors contribute to patinas and color changes associated with normal age and wear. When testing Bakelite, always use safe, nondestructive tests like those described in this article. Relatively common Bakelite bangles and pins which brought only $10-$50 in the mid-1990s, are now priced at $50-$300. 6. Bakelite is a generic named material based on the thermosetting phenol formaldehyde resin polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride. Pingpong balls and some guitar picks are still made … phenol-formaldehyde resin. The dangerous nature of Bakelite is from different sources: manufacturing, collecting and disposing. Hand finished into buckles and Mah Jong tile. Red and black, widths 7/8″ to 1½″, priced $60 to $110. Throughout this article, "Bakelite" will refer to all phenolic resin pieces regardless of their original brand name. Authentic Bakelite, made piece by piece with hand finishing, never has a mold seam. The first Bakelite that arrived in Turkey and the Middle East in the early 1900s was mainly in the form of drawer and furniture knobs and handles. . There is a surprising amount of original unfinished Bakelite stock that has survived. People bought Bakelite jewelry boxes, lamps, desk sets, clocks, radios, telephones, kitchenware, tableware, and a variety of game pieces such as chess sets, billiard balls, and poker chips. Genuine vintage jewelry that is plain and low value, is frequently carved … 14 Exposed surfaces of vintage Bakelite are almost always darker than protected surfaces. The covering over early political buttons, billiard balls, film stock until 1950, and vintage ivory-like handles were made with celluloid. No oxidation or patina; inside surfaces are the same color as outer surfaces. Today, Hyman says, "The prices have skyrocketed." As ways were found to manufacture Bakelite in bright colors, it began to be used for all sorts of decorative objects, especially jewelry. 26 This new scottie napkin ring on wheels is available for $4 each. Some 5,000 years ago, we learned how to make alloys of copper, and the Bronze Age began. No original Bakelite will warp or bend under heat or exposure to moisture. Belgian chemist L.H. Bakelite (and Galalith before it) introduced plastics to the fashion world, to be followed by nylon, polyester, spandex, and more. Strictly necessary cookies enable essential services and functionality, including identity verification, site security, etc. Original prices would be 3-4 times those prices. An original carver, working by the hour or piece-rate, would spend more time finishing exposed surfaces rather than finishing hidden surfaces that were not exposed. An elaborate necklace with … Fig. They are formed through the reaction of phenol with formaldehyde, followed by cross-linking of the polymeric chains. For much of human history, everyday tools and products were made mostly from animal skins, bone, ivory, wood, metals, plant fibers, animal hair, and the like. How to Clean Bakelite Jewelry Between 1929 and 1950, jewelry made from Bakelite had become very popular. 11 Typical old pin catch screwed into Bakelite. The closest material made now is garolite but that’s not Bakelite either. Bakelite was very rarely molded into individual pieces of finished jewelry. The problem was these natural plastics were difficult and expensive to obtain. The common use of natural “plastic” substances—such as rubber latex from plants and shellac from secretions of the lac beetle—began in earnest about three centuries ago, although some had been used off and on over a very long time. The “Fender Bakelite guard” I bought is not Bakelite but looks like it. Bakelite is expensive but too expensive for a lot of products that customers would buy in general. These fail the cotton swab test and have a mold seam. 2 When mixed with wood or paper fibers, Bakelite is dull brown or black. By the 50s, Bakelite was no longer being made, and its jewelry languished in secondhand stores for pennies. Prongs embedded into the piece to hold the pin attachment or tiny screws usually indicate an older piece. Since Bakelite is a manufactured, synthetic plastic containing incredible amounts of formaldehyde, asbestos and other extremely toxic polymers, those who produced these desirable products, put themselves at risk. And that’s not just because I’m Professor Plastics. I bought a bunch of garolite guards from a seller who left them raw … There is reproduction bakelite being made. Bakelite stock is still manufactured and produced in sheet, rod and tube form for industrial applications in the electronics, power generation and aerospace industries, and under a variety of commercial brand names. Galalith—made primarily from milk protein and formaldehyde—was invented in the 1890s and enabled the huge growth in costume jewelry (but eventually was eclipsed by other plastics). Fig. An important product of polymerization is Bakelite, a synthetic resin that is made by reacting phenol with formaldehyde. 17 Offer for newly carved Bakelite bracelets from old stock. 22-23 All findings on vintage Bakelite are separate, applied pieces. They still make some bakelite for industrial purposes, but new jewelry is rare. Generally manufactured on the East Coast, 1929-1941. Bakelite jewelry became immensely popular in the 1920s as an affordable and attractive replacement for other materials. There is a surprising amount of original unfinished Bakelite stock that has survived. Discover the best Bakelite Clock designers. New pins are commonly glued to inexpensive Bakelite clothing buttons to make a piece of "jewelry." Fig. Any warped or misshaped piece like the bangle above, cannot be authentic Bakelite. Bakelite is a very flexible material which can be decorated through molds, carvings, inlays, lamination, etc., and it could be made in most any color. Baekeland invented it in the early 1900s. The 1930s to the 1950s was the era of Bakelite jewelry. The vast majority of bakelite pieces, real ones at least, were made prior to or during WWII. Bakelite Plastic Properties Bakelite is the trade name for phenol formaldehyde resin. . However, like all other Bakelite products, they need cleaning to maintain their colors and shine. Galalith—made primarily from milk protein and formaldehyde—was invented in the 1890s and enabled the huge growth in costume jewelry (but eventually was eclipsed by other plastics). Several buckle and button cylinders in the back row. Bakelite made perhaps its largest stamp on the world of fashion. For thousands of years, humans used stone to fashion tools. Use a tiny amount of material; it doesn't take much. 15 Two typical vintage Bakelite bangles with simple hand carving. Fastener glued to Bakelite clothing button, Fig. Like many modern plastics, Bakelite was lightweight and durable, and it could be molded into nearly infinite shapes, so its use quickly expanded as manufacturers realized its potential. The same bracelets now bring over $4,000. Though fashion has moved on since, these jewelry items still hold value among collectors and enthusiasts. Celluloid—made primarily from plant cellulose and camphor—was created in the 1850s and still is in wide use. This new scottie has a black body with red eyes. A 1924 article in Time magazine predicted that Bakelite, a “material of a thousand uses,” would one day make up nearly everything we touch, see, and use. 7-8), will leave an ivory or pale yellow smear on a cotton swab wetted with one of several common products: the cleaning fluids "409" and "Scrubbing Bubbles" and "Simichrome Polish". Buy what you like to look of. A pin that sold for 79 centsnow could be worth $300 to $500. One way to confirm age is to carefully examine the findings, or hardware, such as pins, hinges, etc. Bill D. View Profile View Forum Posts Diamond Join Date Apr 2004 Location Modesto, CA USA Posts 8,113 Post Thanks / … A bit of hyperbole, of course—but prescient nonetheless. Look-alike materials such as modern hard plastics, will not leave any color on the swab or will leave a smear the same the color as the plastic (blue plastic will leave a blue smear, etc.). Modern hard plastics which are often confused with Bakelite, were generally produced by injecting or pouring a liquid resin into a mold which produced the final product. Old stock and carved pieces will both pass the swab and hot water tests because the pieces are genuine Bakelite. Fig. 6 Genuine Bakelite develops a patina over time and changes the color of the surface. 4) preformed. All the testing products cause eye and skin irritation and should be used carefully; rubber gloves are recommended. Fig. Avoid wetting string, wood or metal that may be found with Bakelite. Nah. © 2010-2020 American Chemistry Council, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 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Phenol-formaldehyde resins are heat-resistant and waterproof, though somewhat brittle. 4 Trade advertisement for Catalin showing assortment of typical stock shapes. However, it is still sometimes used  in small precision-shaped components, such as molded disc brake cylinders, saucepan handles, electrical plugs, switches, and parts for electrical irons. Certain colors, particularly black and some reds, can also occasionally give confusing results. This old but never-used stock, can be carved today (Fig. Insides of bracelets, for example, should be lighter in color than the exposed outer surfaces. This coincided with when the first prayer bead strands made of Bakelite began to appear on the market. In any marbled piece, there should be vertical lines on the inside of the bangle. Bakelite still exists, but is more generically called Phenolic plastic. One of the keys to identifying original Bakelite is to understand how it was manufactured. 8 Dark red Bakelite. But to me, Bakelite will always have a special place in the history of plastics as the first truly modern plastic, one that people prized for its beauty, versatility, and durability. 21. Test swab shows ivory/pale yellow. . 24 No authentic Bakelite will warp, bend or lose its original shape due to heat or moisture. 3 Brightly colored Bakelite gradually began to be used for for ornamental trim. Some say the old is being melted down to make new. Before Bakelite, there was nitrated cellulose. After 20-30 seconds, quickly hold the piece up to your nose. Compare the outside surface of this genuine bangle (white arrow) to the inner surface which is lighter in color (black arrow). Modern hard plastics produced in a mold, virtually always have a mold seam (Fig. Celluloid and Lucite are two other plastics used to make jewelry. Glued fastener on back of typical 1960-70s brooch, Fig. This root beer bangle (top bangle on the right) is pretty swirly on the inside but still has a general vertical pattern. Findings in modern plastic are typically cast into the jewelry as it is being poured or glued on later. Bakelite is the trade name for the plastic product produced by the Bakelite Corporation, but materials made using the same formula were eventually sold under other trade names in the US and around the world.