A Brief Look at Bakelite Plastic

Bakelite and Wood Violin Brooch
Black bakelite pin with chrome

Polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride is one of those words that can stop a person in his or her tracks. It’s also the formal name for one of the world’s most beloved forms of vintage jewelry, Bakelite. For those that may have never heard of Bakelite before, it’s a thermosetting plastic. It initially burst onto the scene in the early 1900s, thanks to one Leo Baekeland. At the time, he was rumored to have been trying to create a binder.

Regardless of his initial intentions, Baekeland’s invention was put to a variety of excellent uses. The making of wonderful whimsical jewelry was just one of them. Its inherent properties made it possible for jewelry makers to incorporate meticulous, colorful detailing into their designs.

The Bakelite Violin Brooch shown above is an example of some of the detail and whimsy. Sometimes wood, chrome, brass and googly eyes were added to the pieces. The black Art Deco era pin above adds chrome to the piece.