Bakelite jewelry can look a lot like modern resin, but the earliest attempts at plastic didn’t look so plastic. Celluloid was invented, in 1868, with the greenest of intentions – to replace ivory and tortoiseshell. And it had to be hand-carved because it didn’t take a mold well.
Bakelite, the first entirely synthetic plastic, came along in 1907. It still had to be carved but it was dirt cheap. By the Deco era, Bakelite and celluloid jewelry was wildly creative – like art, music and everything else going on at the time.
Doyle New York has amassed eighty lots of vintage Bakelite and celluloid baubles for sale this Thursday, starting at about $30. A look at the bracelets alone gives you a taste of the incredible spectrum of early plastic jewelry – including some pieces you’d swear were made according to current trends.
As you can see, Bakelite bangles ranged from the warm, mottled look of Grandmom’s button box to something that could pass for sixties mod (right).