Bakelite |ËˆbÄk(É™)ËŒlÄ«t|Â noun trademark -Â an early form of brittle plastic, made from formaldehyde and phenol.Â Designated aÂ National Historic Chemical LandmarkÂ by theÂ American Chemical SocietyÂ in recognition of its significance as the world’s first synthetic plastic.
ORIGIN early 20th cent.: named after Leo H. Baekeland (1863â€“1944), the Belgian-born American chemist who invented it, + -ite.
One of the firstÂ plasticsÂ made from synthetic components, Bakelite was usedÂ in electricalÂ insulators, radio casings, kitchenware,Â jewelry, and children’sÂ toys.
And it sounds really good when it clunks together. And the colors are deep and rich and take on a warm hue as they age. Over time, many pieces of Bakelite jewelry broke or were thrown away. Those that remain are collectible, and can run into 100s of dollars. There are companies who still manufacture Bakelite-type plastic jewelry (the Retrolite line from Classic Hardware, for instance) but the manufacturing process is labor-intensive and the jewelry can still seem expensive for “just plastic.”
One of the more collectible lines of Bakelite jewelry is a collection that may or may not have been called Cherries Jubilee, originally produced in the 1940s. (I can’t find documentation to support the nomenclature, but I’m not a professional researcher.) If you search online for the necklace in this line, you’ll find many examples in a wide price range, from original sets to reproductions. While some are worth every penny and some bear an inflated “market value,” they’re all out of my pathetic little price range. So, it looks like it’s time once again to Get Crafty!
I’d had the vague mental plan to recreate my own version of this necklace for a Very Long Time. It wasn’t until I was looking for a bit of chain in order to carry out a clever earring storage trick I’d seen on Pinterest that I realized I could accomplish both projects with one purchase. So, while I was at it, I picked up some plastic beads, a packet of head pins, and some filagree bead caps.
white chain, $1.99
lucite crackle beads $1.99
lucite leaf beads $1.99
4in head pins $1.49
7mm bead caps $1.49
7mm jump rings (in my stash)
toggle clasp (in my stash)
Total Cost: $9
Parts Left Over: many bits, I’ll make matching earrings at the very least.
This was going to be more of a tutorial, but here’s the thing: if you actually give enough of a whit about making jewelry to have the proper tool for making loops on head pins, then you can already figure out how to put this together. If, however, you love it so much that you need to run out and buy round-nose micro pliers just to make this necklace, comment below and I’ll break down all of the steps for you.
Now, my version contains more metal parts than the original (head pin “stems,” bead caps, chain) and the plastic bits don’t even pretend to look like Bakelite, but I was going for the general effect, not a precise reproduction. If I wanted a “real deal” look, I’d buy the hand-made version (and matching pin while I’m at it) from Melody O’Beau because she deserves to get paid for all of the work and care she puts into hers.
And fini! My version will work just fine, for now.
More vintage necklaces from around the â€™net (clicking on any of the photos with prices will take you directly to that item’s sale page):