Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Love Bakelite???

playToday I'm going to post about one of my very FAV things...Bakelite!!! Know what it is? Never heard of it? Either way, I think you will enjoy seeing it! Bakelite is FUN! Bakelite is Colorful!! Bakelite is Funky!! Bakelite is Vintage! Bakelite is Shabby!! Bakelite is..." a castable, fire resistant plastic that was invented by Leo Baekeland in 1909. It was originally used for industrial purposes, until jewelry makers found that its light weight made Bakelite a perfect choice for designing and manufacturing inexpensive bracelets, rings, pins and other jewelry.
Bakelite jewelry became especially popular in the 1930's and 1940's, after a wider assortment of colors was introduced. The new batch of Bakelite colors captured the imagination of more and more jewelry companies. Coco Chanel was one famous designer who offered Bakelite jewelry and accessories.*"

It's EYE CANDY!!! There is just nothing more fun then to load on an armful of funky Bakelite Bangles! Way back when, in the early 1990's, I set up a booth every Sunday at the local flea market. I sold anything and everything that I had found during the week at thrifts, garage/yard sales and estate sales. But I mostly wanted to find and sell costume jewelry and Bakelite was my FAV!!! Of course these were the days before Ebay and Amazon, and so Bakelite was easier to find (although still not easy, easy) and we (me and my flea market buddies) bought and sold it way lower then market value. I literally sold bangles right off my arm! As much as I loved wearing tons of Bakelite Bangles at a time, more then not I was made an offer for them that I just couldn't refuse.

Of course Bakelite wasn't just used for bangles. There are also pins, necklaces, earrings, beads, etc. And not only jewelry either! Lots of kitchenware such as spoons, forks, knives, serving pieces, pie cutters, etc often had Bakelite handles. Telephones were made from Bakelite, game pieces too. The list could go on and on. Of course I LOVE the flamingo pin above! But please note that I don't own these pieces shown although I wish I did! Sadly the only Bakelite I own now are some kitchenware and one large green Bakelite bangle...the bangle was given to me from my Mom, only 2 months before she passed away. Of course I could never part with it. She paid 25 cents for it at a yard sale!

Over the years I've had many many Bakelite finds. But I'm a seller (first before a collector) and have sold all I've had on Ebay. Lately it has gotten harder and harder to find Bakelite as so many more people are in the "know". I mean sure you can find  it on Ebay and Amazon, but rarely these days at a yard or estate sale. So if you find yourself loving Bakelite, buy buy buy!! I think it's a great investment; I can't ever see it losing it's appeal or value.

There are two women in history that had a huge influence on Bakelite jewelry. They are Coco Chanel and Josephine Baker.

Josephine Baker inspired bangle.

Josephine Baker wearing Bakelite and not much else. :)

Josephine Baker commissioned Bakelite gifts for friends and these pieces are very sought after. These pieces are fun and whimsical. Click here to see Google Images.

Coco Chanel Bakelite Bangles.

Coco Chanel wearing the above bangles. LOVE this picture! Actually I LOVE all things Coco!

 Coco Chanel helped to popularize Bakelite when she made ‘costume’ jewelry acceptable and affordable by using Bakelite. Prior to Chanel, genuine gemstone, pearl and metal jewelry wasn’t affordable for the average woman, along with the fact that  precious metals and glass were sacrificed for the war effort.
Believe it or not, Bakelite is still being produced. The worst thing about the Bakelite reproductions is that it is actually being produced, using the original formula. This procedure is very dangerous and is only done overseas. To me, these pieces are not really "fake" as they are truly being made in the same way and are really Bakelite. It's just that they are not true "vintage" as many sellers would have you believe. But if the seller is upfront that what he/she is selling is "new" Bakelite, not "vintage", and if you love the piece, I say go for it!!

The hazardous risk from Bakelite is in the manufacturing process. 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. At the time Bakelite was being made,  safety and health precautions were not mandatory. These hardworking men and women exposed themselves to the toxins, through exposure. I read somewhere that if Leo Baekeland knew how hazardous his invention was before he died that he would roll over in his grave; he just had no idea!

I would love to hear any you own any Bakelite? Send a picture! If you want to own your own Bakelite, go here!


Cap Creations said...

Wow very interesting. I have never heard of Bakelite. I've probably seen it and never even knew it. Thanks so much for sharing at Cap Creations.

Kristi Coles said...

Thank YOU for taking the time to read my post! And glad to hear that I was able to enlighten you to the world of Bakelite! Please take some time to research it some might get hooked, lol! Bakelite jewerly is just right out FUN!!! Thanks also for letting me link on your site! As you can see, I'm still "new" and need some exposure...I very much appreciate your help!

Heather@Tatter and Fray said...

What a great post! I have admired bakelite for a long time and keep hoping to find a steal on some green or red bakelite handled flatware, but it never happens. :) Do you have any tips on identifying it? Sometimes I find vintage bangles that look like bakelite, but I'm never sure.

Kristi Coles said...

Hi Heather! So glad you found my blog and enjoyed the Bakelite post. Here is a link to help you with identifying it...

Once you know what it is, then you will spot it a mile away! Good luck with finding some flatware; have you checked ebay, etsy, and amazon?

Heather@Tatter and Fray said...

Awesome--thanks for the info! I have drooled over flatware on eBay, etc., but was hoping to luck into thrift store/flea market prices. No such luck, I'm afraid. I may just have to bite the bullet and pay "going" prices. I reallllly want some! ;)

Cap Creations said...

Hey there just wanted to let you know that I featured you over at the blog today!

Marianne said...

Lovely! My grandma had a ton of it and I got all her vintage jewelry. Unfortunately I gave a lot of it away not knowing (because it wasn't gold/silver/jewels) and thought it was worthless. About a year ago I took the rest to a consignment store. Oh, well, someone is enjoying it!