Bakelite on the block in L.A.

Eighty lots of Bakelite and Lucite jewelry from a private collection will be auctioned off during the Period Art & Design sale at Bonhams Los Angeles on May 20. They show the full spectrum of Bakelite jewelry, from elegant and exotic to splashy, whimsical and cartoonish. (Note the elephant with “googly eyes!”)

Invented in the early 20th century, Bakelite was the first completely synthetic plastic. Cheap and pliable, this material could take on almost any color and shape (molded or carved), allowing a new creative freedom that revolutionized costume jewelry. Bakelite jewelry first caught on in the 1920s and remained popular through the Depression and WWII, evolving constantly with fashions of the day. Pieces like these serve as a time capsule, an example of affordable elegance and the spirit of fun that carried our ancestors through some dark days. Here are a few highlights from the sale:


(Photos courtesy of Bonhams)

Top to bottom:

Bakelite “bowtie” bangle, est. $1,000-1,500

Two Bakelite elephant brooches one with googly eye, one with metal enhancement, est. $500-700

Bakelite gazelle brooch, est. $500-700

Three Bakelite terrier brooches, est. $900-1,200

Two stretch Bakelite bracelets with diagonal rectangles, est. $600-900

Two striped laminate Bakelite bangle bracelets with two similar rings, est. $500-700

Preview will be held May 18-19, 2012, at Bonhams Los Angeles. Look for the online catalog in the weeks before the sale.

Related posts:

Flights of fancy: Bakelite bangles

Women who paved the way: Elsa Schiaparelli

Bicycle mania: Victorian style




4 comments for “Bakelite on the block in L.A.

  1. Judi
    March 31, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    I believe this fabulous Bakelite auction will actually be 80 lots not pieces. Some lots have multiple pieces so there are probably several hundred pieces being offered. Can’t wait!!

  2. Cathleen McCarthy
    March 31, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    Lots, of course! Thanks for the catch, Judi. Feel free to report back after the sale and give us highlights.

  3. BB
    October 28, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Here is the link to the press release for an upcoming auction at Bonham’s this November 13th 2013

  4. BB
    October 30, 2013 at 8:48 pm

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