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Bakelite Feature /



 
FROM TOP LEFT - Nancy Cunard // Photo by Man Ray, 1926, The photo that started a stampede of folks collecting vingtage Bakelite - Connoisseur Magazine, Greens, root beer bangles and a clamper, Iris Apfel, Chanel Green Bakelite Runway Bag - 1950s, French Bakelite Bangles, Bakelite Sign, Watch Pin Brooch, Vintage Emerson 744B radio, Bakelite Hand, Diana Vreeland - 1960s, Miu Miu Resort 2010, Carolina Herrera Spring Collection 2012, Bakelite, Butterscotch bakelite radio.
 
 
 

 

Bakelite, invented by Austrian Chemist Leo Baekeland in the 1920s is defined as a phenolic resin able to withstand very high temperatures. It was used in light fittings, radio casings, kitchen utensils, ornaments and other decorative items such as jewellery. It gained popularity in the 1950s.

The manufacture of this material was later banned in the early 60s due to the high industrial pollution created by the factories and all production ceased by the mid-1960s. For further detailed information refer to History of Bakelite (Wikipedia)

Bakelite Jewellery has always been of great interest to collectors due to its unique designs, textures and colours. Its popularity and collectability has varied over the years according to price fluctuations and rarity of the pieces but has recently seen resurgence, appearing on the runways and in the collections of top designers. As a result, it has now been revisited by a whole new generation of young people eager to acquire at least an example of these special original pieces.

WORDS BY BRUNA //

My first piece of Bakelite was purchased by myself at the age of 17 from a small antique store in Sydney. One piece led to another and is still the case and giving me as much pleasure as that first small buttercup yellow carved number which came my way back in the mid-60s. Of all the varied styles and designs of adornment, the wearing of Bakelite pieces is probably the most colourful and fun to put together, this is because the distinctive muted Bakelite tones work so harmoniously together, and throwing in plenty of bright colours will only further compliment the arrangement, particularly if you love bangles. Go ahead and express yourself with your arms and wrists. Load them up!

Other great pieces to consider here are the Bakelite brooches, again colourful, fun and often quirky and unique in design, bunches of cherries, figures such as expressive faces, animals and many other unusual designs. This is where one needs to remain open to possibilities, wearing 2 and sometimes 3 brooches at a time! It is all about play with this kind of jewellery so go ahead and have fun!

 

I have put together a collage of pictures from the early 1940s until now, note the famous shot of Nancy Cunard and her armload of bangles. This is an uninhibited example of style, albeit from a person whose life itself was uninhibited and turbulent.
Dianna Vreeland on the other hand exhibits her own particular style, always showing attention to detail and proportion, whether it be in choice of clothing or accessories. It is important to note however, that there are many pieces described as Bakelite and are clearly not. This is because in Europe for instance "Galalith" is often mistaken for Bakelite as are other various resins. Bakelite became popular in the 1950s in the USA in particular and remains so until this day. There are large private collections in the form of jewellery and also ornaments etc. As Bakelite jewellery gains in popularity then so it becomes more difficult to find quality pieces. When considering purchasing a piece of Bakelite, as always price is a factor but more importantly is asking yourself Do I really love this piece? and Will I wear it often?
Queries or questions regarding our pieces are welcome.

I wish you many happy years of wearing and collecting!
 
Enjoy!
Bruna
 

 

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