Once you have decided you want to start collecting Vintage Bakelite Jewelry, you need to get started somewhere and one should start off slowly and carefully. It helps, of course to have some basic knowledge of the history of this wonderful era of collecting. There are many exceptional books on Vintage Bakelite jewelry readily available, which are a most useful resource. We have been dealing in Vintage Bakelite jewelry for well over 30 years and truly feel that it is never to late to start collecting, wearing and enjoying Vintage Bakelite jewelry. This form of Vintage Plastic Jewelry is indeed a wonderful tribute to the designs contributed from the Art Deco era.
The Art Deco period began with the end of the Art Nouveau period in approximately 1920 and continued through 1935. During this era, the most accessible and collectible jewelry of the Deco era was “plastic.” The word “plastic” and “jewelry” do not seem to go together for many people, but they do if you are an avid collector of Deco jewelry – in Bakelite – the colorful fun jewelry that is so fashionable to wear. As far as we are concerned, we are of the opinion that this is the ultimate in costume jewelry, as it is worn completely for effect, to enhance the “costume.” Rather than being spurned as it was for many years, it is worn today in the spirit of colorful fun for which it was intended. In addition, when searching for Bakelite jewelry, one can find some fabulous examples of great design work in the harder-to-find pieces that have made their happy way to the collectible’s market. When beginning to collect Vintage Bakelite jewelry, certainly do not feel that you have to start off with highly carved and costly pieces. This is not the case. Not only it is a decorative fashion accessory, it is a valued commodity.
So, you say you like Bakelite, but don’t quite know what it is…..Bakelite, a Phenolic Resin, was cast into tubes, rods and carved sheets by machinists and was invented by Dr. Leo Bakeland, for which he obtained a patent on July 13, 1907. The demand for it and its uses in household items, kitchenware, games, toys, electrical insulators and of course jewelry, made this product an instant success. It was intended for the masses. Most Bakelite jewelry production ceased in 1942 at the beginning of World War II.
Bakelite jewelry was sold in the 1930’s and early 1940’s in such noteworthy United States department stores such as Sears, Saks, B. Altmans and Bonwit Tellers. There were well known designers such as Van Cleef and Arpel, Chanel and Lalique who even designed items using this material. These were the times of the depression and the bright and durable Bakelite items were an instant hit with all, with a wonderful array of colors available. The Queen may not have worn Bakelite at the time, but in a recent television program, the Royal Yacht Britannia had furnishings that had Bakelite trim.
It can be a truly awesome and confusing experience when beginning one’s search for that first piece of Vintage Bakelite jewelry. As with all vintage and collectible jewelry, time creates scarcity. There is much to choose from, and it can be found in bricks and mortar shops, antiques shows, flea markets and sites like Evelynne’s Oldies But Goodies, http://www.evelynnesoldiesbutgoodies.com. Be sure to check back for the next installment on this fascinating topic……