As part of the fourth and final installment of our special costume jewelry series (click to read about Part I: refined red glass necklaces, Part II: fabulous faux earring, and Part III: gorgeous gold-tone bangles), we’re bringing you vintage Bakelite.
This easily recognizable jewelry made of a plastic that was originally developed to build telephone casings and electrical insulators became popular among US women when manufacturers started producing massive quantities of beads, bangles, and earrings during the early 20th century. Around WWII, however, production was largely halted due to the jewelry’s intensive and costly production process, making the era’s mass-produced synthetic accessories a highly sought-after collectible today.
Here are three vintage Bakelite beauties to consider for your jewelry collection.
Named for its bowtie-inspired decoration, this “bowtie” bangle is an extremely rare example of Bakelite jewelry. Very few “bowtie” bangles were manufactured, and even fewer have beveled edges rather than rounded ones. Most likely made during the early 1950s, it is among the last Bakelite bracelets and is in excellent condition. The 1/2-inch-wide bracelet band has only few tiny holes that are most likely filling defects from the time of manufacture, which are common in Bakelite pieces. Available at Carousel of Jewels on Rubyplaza.com
While most Bakelite jewelry is simple, this 5/8-inch-wide bangle was made with incredible detail—a sweeping leaf motif hand-carved into the plastic—making it both exceedingly beautiful and rare. Made in the ever-fashionable 1940s, the bold yet feminine design in cherry red makes it the perfect addition to any style maven’s wardrobe. Available at Vintage Fashion Inc on 1stdibs.com
Simple and classic, this lovely bangle is emblematic of early Bakelite bracelets. It is believed to be made in the 1920s or 1930s, when Bakelite jewelry was first produced, typically in plain, undecorated designs. Still, the inside rim has been meticulously hand-carved, giving it a personal touch. Measuring only 3/8 inches wide, it’s delicate alone and daring stacked with other bangles. Available at Victoria’s Purrrrfect Treasures on Rubylane.com
[Photography courtesy of Carousel of Jewels (top), Vintage Fashion Inc (center), and Victoria's Purrrrfect Treasures (bottom)]