A lesson on Bakelite


Did you know?

Did you know "Bakelite" is actually a brand name, just as "Klenex" has become a general reference for tissue. It was invented by Dr. Leo Baekeland in 1907, by accident of course, as many great things are discovered. Bakelite is special because it's a thermoset plastic. Basically, it doesn't melt. It's very durable, cost little to make, and could be worked into an endless array of colors and designs. It's made from phenol formaldehyde, with filler, such as cotton, wood, that kind of thing.


In the 1930s the depression hit in the U.S. and Bakelite had perfect timing. It was easy to make, cheap, and colorful. Not only made in bangle form, but also carved necklaces, brooches, shoe clips, every novelty design to lift the spirits and freshen up a frock. In the 1940s we entered the war, and metal was scarce. Bakelite saves the day again! It had quite a good run. It's popularity dwindled through the 50s and 60s, and is now desired by jewelry collectors and vintage wearers.



Bakelite rings, earrings, necklaces, and beads were a big part of the action:  colorful, fun-loving, often carved, but sometimes simple in clear or translucent designs. Bakelite pins and brooches were produced in an extraordinary number of designs:  cowboy boots, fruit and vegetables, silly animals and silly people, Egyptian pharoahs, Uncle Sam, musical instruments, airplanes, women's hats...the list goes on. The Bakelite charms found on bracelets and necklaces included fruit, animals, school books and school supplies, symbols of luck, bowling pins and other sports items, anchors, tropical motifs, Mexican mariachis, and much much more. Here at Harlequin Market we are Bakelite obsessed! With a large selection of brooches and bangles available online and from our Double Bay Store. From hand carved horse and cat pins to Bakelite clamper cuffs and Reworked bangles from Schultz and Theresa; we are sure to have something here for you to add to your collection. Or better yet, start your collection! (The fun has only just begun!) 

View our Bakelite collection online here >


If you want to know how you can tell the difference between Bakelite and normal plastic? It's all about the smell!  If you rub the surface of a Bakelite item with your thumb until it feels hot, it should smell like formaldehyde! Because that is what it was made from!