Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bakelite Testing 101 and How to Determine if My Piece is Bakelite


Bakelite was developed by Dr Baekeland in search of a replacement for shellac. What he formulated was a predecessor to today's plastic. Bakelite was used in lots of items during the 1920-40s. Bakelite jewelry is one of our favorites. We have picked and sold quite a few pieces. Value ranges based on transparent, translucent, end of day, carved, size and colors. 

If you search the behemoth eBay you will find a lot of people don't know Bakelite from Shinola.  There are lots of items posted with Celluloid, Bakelite or Lucite in the titles at the same time. Folks it can't be all of these. 

Bakelite is very easy to test using semichrome, plastic polish or even just plain water. We use water soaked Q-tip swaps when picking to test the item. Water doesn't freak out the store clerks. Rub the item vigorously with your Q-tip or cloth with your test solution above. No matter what the color of your item you will see a nicotine colored stain. That is Bakelite.

You would be surprised to how many items we have tested negative. The most expensive piece was a $425 Bangle that was plastic in a shop in South Carolina. We showed the manager and she was going to get in touch with the showcase renter. 

Share your favorite Bakelite item in the comments below. For more information on this and other vintage items visit indypicker.com.

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