7.31.2007

Bakelite!

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While organizing some jewelry stock today, I came across my box of Bakelite stock that I haven't looked through since the move. I really need to start making more Bakelite jewelry for day-lab...b/c it has been ages since I have.

I guess I do collect Bakelite to a degree, but I have more unfinished pieces, old factory stock etc. than I do finished pieces of jewelry. There is just something about the unfinished old stock that I adore.

Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic, was developed in 1907–1909 by Belgian-American Dr. Leo Baekeland. It is a cast phenolic resin. The term Bakelite is used today rather generically, describing all the cast resin plastics produced under diffferent brand names (i.e. Catalin etc.) during the 30's and 40's. It was used for many things from radio cabinets, industrial parts, hardware(like door knobs and pulls)to kitchenware, jewelry and more.

A Bakelite Hobby Kit:

Image from The Bakelite Jewelry Book
by Davidov and Dawes Abbeville Press Publishers

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Examples of English, French, and German Bakelite, which is streamlined and subtle, using more metal than Bakelite in designs. Whereas, American designs were generally more over the top, colorful, and sometimes borderline gaudy:

Image from The Bakelite Jewelry Book
by Davidov and Dawes Abbeville Press Publishers

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It was most prolific in costume jewelry during the 30's and 40's. It was a bright cheerful inexpensive depression era novelty that allowed women to still enjoy jewelry during a time of financial hardship and limited metal goods (due to the war).

Figural carving brooches:

Image from The Bakelite Collection
by Burkholz, Schiffer



Bakelite and wood brooch, clamper:

Image from The Bakelite Jewelry Book
by Davidov and Dawes Abbeville Press Publishers

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It was an expensive plastic to produce however, and after a while alternative plastics were invented and Bakelite faded away.
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Some of my old stock consists of old rods. Bakelite was poured into tubes/templates. Once cooled the Bakelite rods would harden. At that point, the rods could be cut up into individual pieces.

Once Bakelite hardens it is permanently/chemically changed and can not be melted or altered. So, most highly decorative Bakelite bangles and rings you see are hand carved, which is what makes them so collectible...each is one-of-a-kind.

Some of my Bakelite rods:


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An advertisement for Catalin rods for manufacturers:


Image from The Bakelite Jewelry Book
by Davidov and Dawes Abbeville Press Publishers

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Some of my Bakelite rod pieces that have been sliced, still rough needing to be polished:


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And an example of what they will look like after sanding/polishing:


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Bakelite changes color over time. Pink becomes dark orange, blue becomes black, white becomes a dark ivory, turquoise becomes a dark green. Clear (trademark name is Prystal) becomes an apple juice yellow. In the pictures below, you can see how the clear has changed to Apple juice and the reds, whites, and blues, are now dark reds, dark ivories, and blacks:


Image from The Bakelite Jewelry Book
by Davidov and Dawes, Abbeville Press Publishers



Images from Bakelite Jewelry by Wasserman and Pina, Schiffer
and Collecting Art Plastic Jewelry by Leshner, KP Books

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Apple juice Bakelite is a favorite of mine. Also I love the darker marbled version often called root beer or faux tortoise. A few examples of these from my collection:




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Another favorite is all the marbled Bakelite. These are some of my more well liked pieces from my old stock..


Green and yellow marbled beads, a few are colossal in size:


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Some cooler hues in examples of different shapes:


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I also love finding old games pieces and dice blanks that were never struck.

Dice blanks in red, green, ivory:


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Backgammon sets...the marbling in these game pieces is wonderful:








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And some finished pieces I found that I really adore:






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And then there are the few rings I found early on that I realize now are what collectors like to call Fakelite. This is modern day Bakelite being produced over seas, shipped here, then sold as old Bakelite:



The necklace is old stock Bakelite and was constructed in the sixties using old stock Bakelite blanks. It is a nice chunk of Bakelite. I did look up the Patent Number on the chain clasp and the patent was applied for in 1965.
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I have always wished I would somehow stumble upon one of those fabled old Bakelite factory basements, where tons and tons of old stock has been quietly stored away..just sitting there...forgotten for all these years...waiting to be found...by me.

Unlikely, yes.

But in the 1970s a New York dealer discovered a stash of old stock, never worn pieces composed of Bakelite and Galalith by French Designer Auguste Bonaz. His designs are fantastic...streamlined and modern (google him):


Image from The Bakelite Jewelry Book
by Davidov and Dawes Abbeville Press Publishers



Could you even imagine stumbling upon something like that??
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www.day-lab.com

2 comments:

Jessica said...

I love this little whole post about bakelite. I am such a huge fan and would definitely get some pieces if they were up in your shop...I am jealous of your ENTIRE box of bakelite.

kristafaye said...

I love this post Amy! So interesting. I'm going to check out your Bakelite items now...

-Krista