Plastic jewelry

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Although I am not a big fan of plastic (I’m a woman and prefer the “stones”, the real stones! 🙂 ), I must admit that plastic jewelries have charm! …and they are very collectible!
I won’t get very much into plastic history – either we talk about Bakelite, Lucite, Celluloid, Catalin, Galalith etc – cause anybody can search and read about how it was invented. However I will add to the end of this article a few info about.
What I want to submit your attention today is this Bakelite necklace, charming shaped as a chain of hazelnuts, which reminds me of Carmen Miranda, the lady in a tutti-frutti hat, the Hollywood studios’ “Brazilian Bombshell”!

Bakelite Necklace

Made of Light brown and green leaf-colored Bakelite hazelnuts put on brass rings, if you wear it, you’ll get easily transposed in the 40’s vintage atmosphere of the USA! Of course you may add a few other accesoires like a bakelite brooch or bracelets and a vintage outfit!
I like it!
Sure, if you are more daring, you can exagerate a little with your outfit so you can get closer to the Carmen Miranda look, but it is upon your choice!

Letitia Nika
Online Gallery Specialist

Miranda’s Hollywood image was one of a generic Latinness that blurred the distinctions between Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, and Mexico as well as between samba, tango and habanera. It was carefully stylized and outlandishly flamboyant. She was often shown wearing platform sandals and towering headdresses made of fruit, becoming famous as “the lady in the tutti-frutti hat.” Miranda’s enormous, fruit-laden hats are iconic visuals recognized around the world. These costumes led to Saks Fifth Avenue developing a line of turbans and jewelry inspired by Carmen Miranda in 1939. Many costume jewelry designers made fruit jewelry also inspired by Carmen Miranda which is still highly valued and collectible by vintage and antique costume jewelry collectors. Fruit jewelry is still popular in jewelry design today. Much of the fruit jewelry seen today is often still called “Carmen Miranda jewelry” because of this.
(source: Wikipedia

And here you can watch how Carmen Miranda was singing and dancing with her famous tutti-frutti hat!

…and now some technical details, courtesy of The Carrotbox, who worked a lot to structure this information!
A Plastic Timeline
‘plas-tik – from Latin plasticus, from Greek plastikos, fromplastos (“molded”), from plassein (“to mold”)

In London, 1862, Alexander Parkes unveils the first-ever man-made plastic. Dubbed “Parkesine,” it fails due to high costs.
More about Parkesine »
After the failure of Parkesine, Daniel Spill tries to manufacture a similar material named Xylonite. The company goes bankrupt in 1874.
More about Xylonite »
The first major plastic, celluloid is discovered in 1869 by American John W. Hyatt. It is manufactured in 1872 during a time of high demand for an ivory replacement.
More about celluloid and the exploding billiard balls »
Two German researchers, trying to create a white chalkboard, mix casein (milk protein) with formaldehyde and create a new plastic called Galalith (from the Greek gala, milk, and lithos, stone). It is also manufactured under the name Erinoid. Casein plastics are still used today, mainly in the production of buttons.
The first completely synthetic man-made substance, Bakelite is invented in 1909 by independent New York chemist Leo H. Baekeland. The “material of a thousand uses” is used to make everything from car parts to jewellery, but jewellery sales are suspended in 1942 in order to concentrate supplies on the war effort. Bakelite pieces are now valuable collectibles. Andy Warhol was an avid collector and, when he died in 1987, his pieces sold for record prices at Sotheby’s.
More about Bakelite »
Plastic enters haute couture when Coco Chanel includes bakelite jewellery in her accessories collection.
When Bakelite’s 1910 patent expires in 1927, the Catalin corporation starts making the same substance under the name “Catalin” and adds fifteen new colours to the colour range. 70% of the “bakelite” remaining today is Catalin. Also suspends jewellery sales in 1942 (see above). Plastic is the perfect medium for the Art Deco period, when bold, colourful, geometric designs are popular.
More about Catalin »
“Lucite” is the brand name of a polyacrylic discovered by DuPont in 1931. Around the same time, an identical polyacrylic is developed by the Rohm & Haas Chemical Company and named “Plexiglas.” In the UK and other European nations, it is generally known as “Perspex.” DuPont markets Lucite jewellery after the war.More about Lucite and Plexiglas »
Thanks in part to improved technology — i.e., better plastics — Bakelite and Catalin become obsolete.
Daniel Fox, a chemist at General Electric, discovers a polycarbonate resin thermoplastic that looks like acrylic but is much more durable (almost bulletproof). A patent is filed in 1955 and it is given the brand name “Lexan.” Familiar products made of Lexan include Apple’s iBook and iPod and Naglene water bottles.
After his death in 1987, Andy Warhol’s extensive bakelite jewellery collection sells for record prices at Sotheby’s.
In May, the bakelite “Philadelphia bracelet” sells for US$17,000 at a Treadway/Toomey auction.
Bakelite collecting is still going strong, but this website tries to focus on all the other types of plastic rings out there!

Scientifically Speaking…
Plastic is a polymer made by mixing a binder with a plasticizer, fillers, pigments and other additives. Polymers have the advantage of being light yet strong, good insulators and resistant to most chemicals. Basically, plastics are synthetic resins (an example of a natural resin would be amber, which is fossilized tree resin; tortoiseshell is another).
There are two basic types of plastic:

1.    thermoplastic – can be repeatedly softened and remolded by heat and pressure (e.g. celluloid, lucite)
2.    thermosetting – cannot be resoftened after being subjected to heat and pressure (e.g. bakelite)

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