27 April 2017

A History of Bakelite

Bakelite is an early form of brittle plastic, made up of formaldehyde and phenol. One of the first plastics made of synthetic components- Bakelite was renowned for its electrical non-conductivity and heat-resistant properties. It was utilized in electrical insulators, radio and telephone casings, and to produce products ranging from kitchen utensils , to jewellery, to firearms !

In the 1920s it became a popular material for jewellery. Legendary designer Coco Chanel was one of the first to set a trend when she included Bakelite bracelets in her costume jewellery collections. Another was designer Elsa Schiaparelli who used Bakelite for jewellery and specially designed dress buttons.
Bakelite color chart 1924

Throughout World War II, Bakelite was used to manufacture patriotic wartime jewellery alongside a range of wartime equipment including pilot's goggles and field telephones.

Diana Vreeland, editor of Vogue from 1963-1971, had a special passion for Bakelite, featuring it regularly in the taste-setting pages of her magazine. The plastic then went on to be used to create presentation boxes for Breitling watches.

The "retro" charm of old Bakelite products has made them collectible, and at Grays we have selected for you a range of wonderful dealers with some truly superb Bakelite items...

Bakelite Pavone Dancing Couple Brooch available from Linda Bee

An Art Deco chrome bangle with green/yellow Bakelite disk clasp available from Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery

Assorted Bakelite jewellery available from Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery
Vintage circular bakelite decorated box available from MGN Collectables

An Art Deco brooch with a central green Bakelite piece available from Gillian Horsup Vintage Jewellery

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