Bakelite jewelry, originally marketed as Catalin jewelry, is one of the most famous and valuable styles of antique plastic jewelry dating back to the 1920s.
It was an important part of the Art Deco period and was particularly popular in the 1930s. The jewelry is hard to come by today, so it is quite valuable.
But the value of the diamonds is not the only thing that stands out from Bakelite jewelry; there’s also the fact that bakelite jewelry is known for the solid and bold-colored stacks of bangles.
But there are many other varieties of Bakelite jewelry and several other transparent plastic adornments. Others were also resin-washed while others are reverse=carved.
Also, not all the bakelite jewelry options were made of this plastic; others were clad with metals, among other kinds of materials.
Often, the metal-clad and transparent bakelite pieces weren’t previously referred to as Bakelite, which is why they weren’t popular, and you may not have been familiar with them.
If you are a collector or interested in finding and learning more about bakelite jewelry, you should know some of the important basics. You also need to know about the different types of bakelite jewelry. So, in this article, we’ll share more about the different types of bakelite jewelry.
Top 8 Bakelite Jewelry Pieces You Should Know
1. Solid-Color Bakelite
The most popular type of Bakelite is the solid-color bakelite, which is also the most notable and easily recognizable kind of Bakelite jewelry.
In most instances, you wouldn’t have to test the bakelite jewelry to determine its genuineness.
This kind of bakelite jewelry is often found readily because of the characteristic bright colors of the jewelry, specifically yellow. These solid-color options range from buttery-yellow to dark butterscotch.
There also are several variations of the color green. Although red solid-color bakelite options are the most popular ones among collectors.
Essentially, all the solid-color-hued bakelite jewelry may or may not have carvings in different colors for a wide variety of jewelry, including figural brooches, bangle bracelets, dress clips, and earrings, among others.
2. The Marbled Bakelite Jewelry
One of the common types of bakelite jewelry is marbled bakelite jewelry. Unlike the solid-color options, this jewelry is often multicolored, and the colors are rather swirled together, which means that most of the colored marbled Bakelite pieces feature one base color, and there are other colors swirled within the base color.
For the marbled bakelite jewelry, most of the marbled colors are primary and secondary colors, although the most common color found in marbled jewelry today are a combination of yellow and green.
The other common color is butterscotch marbled with yellow, which is also one of today’s most common color combinations.
While marbling with just two colors is common, other collectors are actively looking for Bakelite jewelry marbled in more than one base color – these are out there, but they are rare and hard to find.
3. Laminated Bakelite Jewelry
The other unique style of laminated bakelite jewelry is the laminated style of bakelite jewelry. Thanks to their laminated design, the Bakelite pieces are often designed to have more than one color, all solid color options that are stacked together for a unique and stylish look.
The individually colored pieces are all laminated using a special type of glue and then polished to create one piece of jewelry.
Most of the laminated Bakelite jewelry options feature pieces of bakelite jewelry laminated using bakelite in different layers, but others are laminated either with metal or wood, as some antique collectors have discovered. The other features of the laminated bakelite pieces are also cut into a zigzag pattern.
Notably, laminated bangles are in the primary and patriotic colors red, blue, and white. But thanks to the natural aging process for bakelite, the white stripes often turn yellow over time, thanks to exposure to the sun’s UV rays and other environmental elements.
4. The Transparent Bakelite Jewelry
While most Bakelite jewelry is solid-colored, there also are forms of bakelite jewelry options that are transparent. Interestingly, transparent bakelite jewelry comes in different colors and almost looks solid.
However, most transparent bakelite jewelry options are found in three main colors, red, yellow, and green.
A number of clever collectors have renamed the yellow, transparent bakelite jewelry varieties Apple Juice. There also are red transparent bakelite options often referred to as cherry juice.
The bakelite pieces are mostly carved or plain, but because of the material’s transparency, the Bakelite material can also be reverse-carved, hence some of the most iconic and unique bakelite jewelry designs.
5. Reverse-Carved Bakelite Jewelry
If you are looking for something fun and intriguing, the reverse-carved bakelite jewelry is the ideal jewelry style for you. These pieces feature carvings at the bottom, which can be seen through the top of the pieces.
In most cases, the bakelite pieces feature floral designs and other uniquely designed and colored options that enhance the jewelry’s overall design and feel. Many of these pieces boast a clean, crisp carving design which you can see from the piece’s frontside to represent the quality of the antique pieces.
Because of its intricate design and the uniqueness of the design process and materials, the reverse-carved Bakelite is often confused with the other antique plastic Lucite.
Note that the difference between Lucite and Reverse=carved Bakelite is the fact that most of the pieces made of Lucite are crystal clear, while the transparent pieces of Bakelite jewelry are transparent but colored, and most of these Bakelite pieces are yellow.
Often, these colored reverse-carved pieces boast a solid color or a marbled effect. There have been several reproductions of this Bakelite jewelry ever since.
However, you should know that not all the Bakelite bracelets that are reverse-carved have a stretch style; instead, most options preferred by collectors boast more elaborate decorations. And the other bangles with simpler reverse=carved features have notches and lines without much coloring on them.
6. Clad Bakelite
As mentioned above, this is a different type of Bakelite that is more of additional material besides Bakelite. These pieces originate from Canada and are very rare.
They are made of Bakelite which forms the base material, plus a metal that clads over the plastic. Metals used include silver, copper, or golden-hued metals. Alloys are, however, more common.
Some of these pieces have partial cladding while others are completely encased, and most of the partially clad options clad with metal will have a green-marbled Bakelite as the base.
In cases where Bakelite shows through, the material can be tested for confirmation, but other techniques would have to be applied for pieces that are completely encased.
7. Overdyed or Resin-Washed Bakelite
If you are a collector, you may also want to look for the overdyed or resin-washed Bakelite jewelry pieces. As the name suggests, this type of Bakelite jewelry is designed using a decorative technique involving wiping a glaze or wash over the carved Bakelite piece.
This process introduces highlights to the base color while accentuating the carving features. In most cases, the treatment forms darkened parts, even though you can still see its underlying colors through the wash treatment.
Most of the resin-washed pieces include the Bakelite Horse pin, which gains a more natural look thanks to the coloration. Resin washing was mainly applied to the figural designs, although you can also see this application style on other pieces like bangle bracelets.
The last type of Bakelite jewelry is Prystal, which is a Bakelite that American Catalin Corporation marketed and is available in different colors.
It was designed by Catalin, and it tests positive for Bakelite. Note that Prystal is essentially a dichroic Bakelite, which has color-changing properties. The most common color is green, with some highlights in plum.
If you have been looking for Bakelite jewelry, you should consider these main types of Bakelite jewelry.
Stephanie is a jewelry lover when she was a teenager. Her major was fashion design when she was in college. She is a jewelry designer at SOQ Jewelry and other design companies. Now she is also a writer for our website. She writes a lot of designs&brands posts with very actionable tips.