The Beginning of Plastic

Bakelite was invented in 1907 by Leo Hendrik Baekland, a gentlemen from Belgium. It was created from a mixture of carbolic acid(phenol) and formaldehyde.

It was actually our first plastic and has been used to create countless thousands of items.

It began it's history in the United States by being used for electrical and machinery parts,and it was used in creating Navy instruments for ships in the 1940's.

Shortly it became the most commonly used product for creating jewelry. Bracelets, charms,necklaces, and pins were among the first plastic items made. Then crib toys, belt buckles and napkin rings became popular items.

The hard, polished, light weight material found many uses.

If at first glance an antique piece of jewelry looks like just plain plastic, look again , it may be Bakelite. Many of the earlier items , especially the pins, may have a sculpted or hand carved look, which would lead you to think they are just simple bone or ivory carvings.

For example ,a scottie dog or an owl pin from the forties may now be worth three or four thousand dollars. The current retail prices today for some Bakelite jewelry items has skyrocketed and will probably continue to increase.

Get to know Bakelite by comparing a piece of bakelite jewelry from the forties to an ordinary plastic jewelry item that is sold today. Get a feel for the texture and looks of the Bakelite piece. This should help you to recognize Bakelite the next time you run across a good looking item at an auction, flea market or yard sale.