Plastic fantastic? Bakelite

It's time to make a confession. You might not expect it from a environmental conscious person like me: but I have a bit of an obsession with plastic. To be more precise: with Bakelite.

My Bakelite collection:

This truly can be called a big guilty pleasure. I am very aware of the impact of plastic on the environment, both in the production process as in the lack of biodegradability.

What is Bakelite?
Bakelite is the first fully synthetic plastic. It got it's name from the Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland, who was working in the US at the time. Bakelite is a resin, built from phenol and formaldehyde. The most important quality was its heat resistant properties. This made it useful in industrial applications like electric appliances. There already had been earlier discoveries of other plastics, like the semi synthetic celluloid, but these were extremely flammable. Beakeland did his discovery in 1907 and also patented the name Bakeliet.

For me Bakelite always had been: black (or sometimes white) plastics, the material of old telephones, or the light switches in my grandfathers house (similar to this):
Via the photo's of Squirreljunkie on Instagram I discovered the beautiful colourful vintage jewelry made from Bakelite. When I was a teen I had a soft spot for retro 60s things. But the plastic items from that era were often scratched and dull.
Yet these older jewelry items from early plastic were just as pretty and shiny as when they had been made. My quest for Bakelite began. And once I had felt the quality of with my own hands I was sold.
In the top photo you see my current collection. In my AllFairness shop I am selling the jewelry that I am not keeping.

This blog post is the first in a series about Bakelite. Other subjects will be:
What kind of jewelry did they make?
How do you know if it is Bakelite?
Where do you find/buy Bakelite?
What other applications, beside jewelry?
What is Philite?

Are there other question you would like me to answer about Bakelite?


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