Bakelite Jewellery Timeline

1907 July 13, Belgium-born chemist Dr. Leo Hendrik Baekeland (1836-1944) patents oxybenzylmethyleneglycolanhydride, unwittingly discovered in a makeshift laboratory in the back yard of his Yonkers, New York, home while trying to create a sythetic shellac; he names it "bakelite"
1910 establishes the General Bakelite Company with the first plant in Perth Amboy, New Jersey
1920s bakelite jewellery is produced and remains popular until the 1940s
1922 General Bakelite merges with two competing companies to become the Bakelite Corporation.
1924 September, Baekeland is featured in the cover of Time magazine
1929 all Baekeland's factories are cramped for space; a 125-acre site is purchased in Bound Brook, New Jersey
c1930 when Coco Chanel includes bakelite bracelets and dress clips in her accessories collection, they are transformed into haute couture classics
1932 a state-of-the-art plant is built in Bound Brook; bakelite jewellery is sold in stores from Woolworth's to Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue
1941 moulding and novelty companies are ordered to stop jewellery production and retool for wartime manufacture of airplace and radio parts; postwar production of bakelite does not resume because of machiney retooling and labour retraining costs; metals are more readily available and jewellery styles have changed
c1985 fashion magazines highlight retro jewellery and bakelite is rediscovered
1988 Andy Warhol's bakelite sells for record prices at Sotheby's New York
1998 February 15, first specialty auction of bakelite at Treadway/Toomey in Chicago where "Philadelphia" bracelet sells for a record $9,350U.S.

Bakelite Tips

Genuine bakelite will:
    - smell like formaldahyde when rubbed vigorously
    - have no seams and be much heavier than other plastics
    - come in rich, mostly autumn, colours
    - change colour when exposed to strong sunlight over a long period of time (white becomes creamy yellow, pink becomes orange, and blue or purple become dark muddy blue-brown)
    - be impossible to pierce with a heated pin

Bakelite Collectors Club

Althought a bakelite collectors' group does not currently exist, if you have any suggestions for a club, please contact: Charliene Felts, Creative Collections, 527 South Pineapple Avenue, Sarasota, Florida 34236


Andrea DiNoto, Art Plastic: Designed for Living, Abbeville, New York, 1984
Sylia Katz, Plastics: Common Objects, Classic Design, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1984
Corinne Davidov and Ginny Redington Dawes, The Bakelite Jewelry Book, Abbeville, New York, 1988
Patrick Cook and Catherine Slessor, Bakelite: An Illustrated Guide to Collectible Bakelite Objects, Quintet, New Jersey, 1992
Dee Battle and Alayno Lesser, The Best of Bakelite and Other Plastic Jewelry, Schiffer, Atglen, Pennsylvania, 1996
Lyngerds Kelley and Nancy Schiffer, Plastic Jewelry, Schiffer, Atglen, Pennsylvania, 1996
Matthew Burkholz, The Bakelite Collection, Schiffer, Atglen, Pennsylvania, 1997
Donna Wasserstom and Leslie Pina, Bakelite Jewelry: Good, Better, Best, Schiffer, Atglen, Pennsylvania, 1997
Barbara Mauzy, Bakelite in the Kitchen, Schiffer, Atglen, Pennsylvania, 1998

You can find many of these books in our bookstore.


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