The History of BakeliteWritten by Sher Matsen
Dr. Leo Baekland, a scientist, was responsible for discovery of bakelite. He was born in Belgian. In 1889 he immigrated the USA hoping for better career opportunities. In 1907 he was working as independent chemist when by accident he discovered compound of carbolic acid and formaldehyde. When he tried to reheat solidified compound he discovered it would not melt no matter how high temperature.
Shortly after he trademarked “Bakelite” as well as two other variations “catalin” and “marblette” which today are also referred to as bakelite. Bakelite was first synthetic plastic. Because of its durability and beauty its uses were simply endless, it grew in popularity very quickly and within 15 years it had taken world by storm. You could find everything from electrical plugs, to ornate jewelry made from bakelite. It was even used on dashboard face of Mercedes Benz car.
It could be produced in a wide array of colors, but most common where white, brown, green and red. Bakelite dating back to 1920s-1940’s has oxidized and developed a wonderful patina that is sometime a completely different hue than original color. For example, White is often seen as butterscotch, light blue changes to forest green, pink turns to orange.
Because of this invention, Dr Beakeland is seen as father of present plastic industry. The costume jewelry from 1920’s-1940’s bakelite era is highly sought after. So how do you determine if it is actually made of bakelite? There are a couple of fairly simple tests. Although not full proof they work pretty well. Smell – When bakelite is heated it has a very strong odor which comes from carbolic acid in composition. On some pieces you can release smell simply by rubbing them hard with your thumb and creating heat. Others will need very hot water to release odor. Still on others odor is so faint you may not detect it. Sound – When you tap two bakelite pieces together they will make a deep clunking sound, rather than higher pitched clack of acrylic or Lucite plastics. This test is most unreliable as it is difficult to interpret sound because density of items affects sound you hear. Hot Pin Test – Bakelite is a thermoset plastic so it cannot be remolded with heat. To test if a piece is bakelite get a very very hot pin from an open flame source, then touch pin to item. If it is bakelite it will not penetrate. It may give off acid smell and it may leave a purple burn mark. If pin penetrates or melts plastic then it is not bakelite. Use caution when doing this test as it can devalue bakelite piece considerable, and it may do serious damage to other types of plastic should piece turn out not to be bakelite. If you proceed with this test be sure to find a very inconspicuous spot. Also if material should be celluloid, it is very flammable and can be very dangerous. If you suspect piece may be celluloid I recommend you “do not” conduct this test. When ever you are conducting this test you should wear appropriate safety equipment such as eye goggles and gloves. Formula 409 or Scrubbing Bubbles or Simichrome – this product works very well to test whether an item is bakelite. Make sure item is clean, wet end of a Q-tip with Formula 409 then touch it to piece. If Q-tip turns yellow then piece is bakelite. If you believe a piece is bakelite but it doesn’t pass 409 test don’t count it out. Sometimes polished bakelite will not react or pass test.
History of EarringsWritten by Sher Matsen
Earrings – I think of them as finishing touch to your look. They complete your fashion statement. There are earrings for all occasions – board room, work, casual outings, your wedding, a night on town, or a day at beach. They can bring out your softer feminine side, sexy goddess, or present simple charm, sophistication and elegance From Elizabeth Taylor to Meg Ryan to Dave Navarro to Usher – today earrings are a fashion statement for both men and women. The first pair of earrings has been dated back to 2500 BC. Only wealth and those of royal lines could afford expensive jewelry back then. There are all types of earrings – chandelier earrings, dangle earrings, hoop earrings, stud earrings, button earrings, and droplet earrings to name just a few. Earrings come in all types of materials and metals. Gold, silver, gemstones, plastics, bakelite, copper, diamonds, paste, pearls, faux stones, or glass. The list goes on and on. What ever your desires there is a pair of earrings out there waiting for you. The oldest earrings ever unearthed by archaeologists were discovered in Iraq in royal graves and date to about 2,500 BC. Back to 3000 BC there were two types of earrings: hoop, and more elaborate pendant. From 1559 B.C. to 1085 B in Egypt earplugs became very fashionable. These type of piercings and earrings are seen even on King Tutankhamen. In Dark Ages poverty prevailed and metal jewelry sharply declined although designs were preserved for later use. During Roman Empire wealthy women used earrings to show off their rich status. By 2nd century AD gemstones such as sapphires, emeralds, and aquamarines were used regularly. During Byzantine period which ran from330-1200 AD earrings took a back burner to more elaborate body ornamentation. In Middle Ages earrings become almost non-existent because of elaborate hair styles, and headdresses which were ever so popular. During 16th century in Italy high collars disappeared and hair was being worn up and away from face, so earrings began to make a comeback. In other parts of world such as England and France it would be another 100 years or so before high collars disappeared. As time progressed design of earrings became much more complex. Around 1660 girandole earring made its appearance remaining very popular for next couple of centuries. The girandole earrings were extremely large and heavy because of metal content [gold or silver] and amount of gems. Made of 3 pear shaped drops on a hook. The weight was known to cause elongated ear lobes. In latter part of 18th century pendeloque earrings became popular. They were longer than girandole earrings but much lighter. They were balance for high hairdos and big wigs that were being worn.