I have been fascinated by vintage Bakelite jewelry from the moment I first discovered this particular art form. “Bakelite” is the invention of Dr. Leo Baekeland, who was born in Ghent, Belgium, in 1863. “Baekeland” is a Flemish word meaning “Land of Beacons.”
After acquiring his PhD maxima cum laude at the University of Ghent at age 21, Baekeland later moved to the United States and became a naturalized American citizen in 1897. He invented “Bakelite,” a hard moldable plastic, which he patented in 1909. His invention of Bakelite heralded the beginning of the age of plastics.
Among thousands of uses too numerous to mention here, Bakelite soon became a popular substance among jewelry designers of the 1920s through the 1950s. This is because Bakelite lent itself to an infinite variety of whimsical designs, including human figures, animals, birds, trees, flowers, architectural elements, fruit such as cherries, and a host of other forms. Pins, brooches, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and rings are among the many Bakelite items collectors can find today at reasonable prices. In addition to the incredible variety of designs, Bakelite jewelry is prized for its bright hues, encompassing every color of the rainbow. Bakelite jewelry is not for everyone, but if one piece appeals to you it is likely you may become a devotee of vintage Bakelite jewelry.