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Collecting Plastic Jewelry - Bakelite, Celluloid, Lucite

Allison Dow Bakelite Bangles Celluloid Celluloid Beads Collecting Jewelry jewelry care Lucite Plastic jewelry

Collecting plastic jewelry has become tremendously popular. I love going to estate sales and searching for costume jewelry. There are often many pieces of plastic jewelry for sale at reasonable prices. Most jewelry lovers have heard of Bakelite and know it can be very valuable. Bakelite is known for its Art Deco styles and colorful stackable bangles, However, there are many different types of plastic jewelry that are also fabulous and collectible. Plastics are materials that can be heated and molded into different shapes, making it very versatile to work with. They also come in every color of the rainbow and can be perfectly crystal clear to opaque.

Butterscotch Bakelite H RingRed Carved Bakelite Pin


Celluloid was patented in 1868 and was among the earliest types of plastic. Celluloid had a multitude of uses and was introduced in the jewelry industry in the 1870's. It could be made to look like tortoise, wood, horn, coral and ivory. Many pieces are often seen in pastel colors and it was heavily carved and embellished with rhinestones. Celluloid was also painted and is light weight and flexible. This plastic was popular because it was a low cost alternative for budget conscious women. Take care not get it wet and store it in open air; early versions were flammable so don't use the hot pin test on it.

 red carved celluloid beads 

 Lucite was patented by Dupont in 1937 and is the trade-name for methacrylate resin. It is the most versatile of plastics. It can be cast, molded and carved. All the colors of the rainbow are produced in Lucite, and now that the patent has expired, a multitude of companies produce Lucite jewelry. It can be crystal clear, pearlized, marbled or opaque. The higher quality pieces will not have seams. Lucite Rings became popular in the 1960-70's. In the ring pictured below they even embedded dried flowers in the Lucite. Lucite continues to be popular and some contemporary designers, such as Alexis Bittar still work in Lucite.

Green and Gold Lucite Necklace from West Germany Lucite Floral Ring


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