How can you identify Bakelite?

By: Thurman Schinner

Scrubbing Bubbles was once the standard cleaner to use for Bakelite testing, but Formula 409 is now recommended instead. To use, dampen a cotton swab with 409 and rub it gently on the inside of the item being tested. If it is Bakelite, the swab will turn yellow. If a piece is lacquered, it may test negative with 409.
What is the rarest color of Bakelite?
A large strands of red Bakelite beads can fetch $4,000 or more and are among the most valuable items to collectors, likely because the cherry amber color is fairly rare and the simple design is very wearable.
What Bakelite looks like?
Celluloid and Lucite are two other plastics used to make jewelry. They can resemble Bakelite, but Bakelite items of the same size are heavier. Celluloid predates bakelite and often has a very fragile, thin, and translucent appearance. Lucite was created in the 1930s and has an entirely clear appearance.
How do I know if I have bakelite or plastic?
Identifying by Weight Bakelite feels heavier when compared to some other types of plastics, like celluloid. Hold another type of plastic you have identified in one hand, and a piece you know to be Bakelite of approximately the same size in the other. You will often notice the heavier feel of Bakelite.

How can you tell real bakelite from Amber?
Amber is lightweight, warm to the touch and sometimes has inclusions like insects, leaves and maybe even air and water bubbles. Amber is fossilized sap from extinct pine trees. It actually feels more like plastic or Lucite than rock or glass. Bakelite is very heavy.
How can you tell the difference between Bakelite and Catalin?
Bakelite is opaque, while catalin is often translucent (can often see this at the edges of an item). If the item is brightly colored jewelry or similar items, it is more than probably catalin.
How can you tell if plastic is vintage?

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Just put the object to your cheek to test. Plastic is also usually much lighter. Glass items, such as a wine glass, will have a distinct sound when clicked with the fingernail that plastic does not. Plastic often has a seam, but rubber and glass can too.
Can Bakelite be white?
You will NEVER see a White Piece of Bakelite! The colours tend to darken with age, and for this reason you will never see a white piece of Bakelite, as it has faded to mustard over the years. It comes in bright colors and patterns you would not see in Bakelite, although there are always exceptions to the norm.
How do you identify Lucite?
If you put it under hot water, rub it vigorously or poke a hot pin into it it will have no smell. Catalin, bakelite and celluloid have chemical smells and casein smells like burnt milk. If it?s transparent or transparent with objects embedded in it (plastic pieces, flowers, coins, etc) it?s lucite.
How can you tell ivory from Bakelite?
Bakelite can be heavy like genuine ivory, but celluloid is noticeably light and translucent. If you press a hot needle to the plastics it will press in easily and smell like chemicals rather than bone. For a less destructive test test, you can put the item under hot water and get the same chemical smell.
What is Bakelite jewelry worth?
Generally, Bakelite jewelry sells for anywhere between $40 and $1,000 it all depends on the piece itself. On average, prices are frequently between $50 and $300, though older pieces (1920s to 1940s) and some bangles carry prices of $800 or more.
What color is Bakelite?
Bakelite in solid colors is the most recognizable type even without employing testing measures. The most readily found colors are yellow, ranging from butter yellow to dark butterscotch, followed by various shades of green.
How can you tell bone from plastic?
The test consists of heating up the point of a needle until it?s red-hot and then pricking what you believe is your ivory carving. If the needle goes in, it?s plastic; if not, it?s probably ivory, or at least bone.

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