Bakelite Catalin Celluloid ?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion Q & A' started by Erin Wells, Sep 14, 2018.

  1. Erin Wells

    Erin Wells Registered Guest

    Hi again!

    I like to do as much of my own research as possible, before coming here, but I am stumped. I picked up this horse pendant because I loved it. I didn't really care what it was made of. However, I am curious of course.

    I did the bakelite 409 test and the swab did not change color. I put it in the hot water and there wasn't any weird smell, other than hot water. But it didn't melt or change color or anything.

    I have always been confused about the Bakelite Catalin Celluloid thing. Does anyone have any resources to explain the difference? I feel like a lot of people categorize it as Bakelite, but what is the difference ?

    Sorry for being long winded! Thanks so much!!!

    Attached Files:

  2. Linn

    Linn Trade Member

    Just by looking, your horse looks like Bakelite to me. It may an older piece that was reworked or a newer piece made from an older material; and it's shiny so it could have a coating on it; or it's highly polished. The bale for the necklace looks like a replacement. There's a lot of information about how to identify Bakelite, Catalin, Celluoid and Galalith jewelry online and in books and it sounds like you know and did the basics. Frequently if Bakelite has been reworked or has a resin coating or is red or black it does not test with 409 or Simichrome. It is supposed to still pass the hot water smell but I have had plenty of pieces that don't smell. I have purchased Bakelite test pads that turn yellowish brown when you do the test - and usually I just rub something until it is warm and sniff it. I have (and have had) pieces that I have been unable to identify. Sometime it is really hard to tell if something is Bakelite or another type of hard plastic. Celluloid is much easier to identify because it is much lighter than Bakelite (or hard plastic) and does have a smell when it's wet. I've read that all of the jewelry that we call Bakelite is actually made of Catalin and that Bakelite only came in black and brown. Galalith looks like Bakelite (Catalin) but it smells like sour milk when you do the hot water test. You can usually tell if something is "plastic" as opposed to Bakelite by the distinctive "clunk" sound it makes when you knock it against a like piece - but this takes practice. Bakelite is heavier than other types of plastic.

    And, as I said, have pieces that do not test in my personal collection.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2018
  3. Erin Wells

    Erin Wells Registered Guest

    WOW! Thank you, Linn for such a detailed response!! I have so much to learn, but I love it! The horse looks and feels so solid and heavy for plastic, I knew there was a possibility that it could be Bakelite ( Catalin). Either way, I will cherish it as I really love it. Hopefully in the near future I will come across some more Bakelite and have something to compare it to. I love the way the carved pieces look, especially the floral hawaiian type. I hope to find some someday! I will certainly look up some of those books and resources you recommended. Thank you again for the informative reply!
  4. Linn

    Linn Trade Member

    Butterscotch Bakelite Deep Carved Floral Brooch.jpg

    I'm sharing this brooch, it sounds like what you would like to find at some point. I live in Hawaii and found it at a Collectible Show several years ago. It is and tests for Bakelite.

    This is the back. Bakelite findings - catches, bales, pin backs are soldered onto the pieces; not glued.

    Butterscotch Bakelite Deep Carved Floral Brooch Back.jpg
  5. Erin Wells

    Erin Wells Registered Guest

    WOW! Linn, that is stunning! Yes, that is exactly what I am referring to. I love that style and that color. Would that be butterscotch? I love that color and the dark brown color.

    It is so exciting that you live in Hawaii! I have never been, but it is on the list. If I could have a dream vintage wardrobe, it would be 1930s & 40s Hawaii / Resort / Beach wear! Playsuits, swim suits, beach pajamas, sarongs, basically Dorothy Lamour and Shirley Ross and girl next door all wrapped into one. My Grandfather arrived in Pearl Harbor 3 days before the attack and continued to fly bomber missions throughout the Pacific Theater in the war. All of his photos and stories have inspired my love for all things vintage Hawaii!

    Your brooch is stunning and thank you for the tip about the soldered vs glued! I have seen quite a few online that clearly have gobs of glue on them and wondered if that was accurate. That is a great piece of info for me, so thank you!
  6. Linn

    Linn Trade Member

    Yes, it's butterscotch Bakelite. I hope some day you will get to Hawaii. The Pacific Aviation Museum Pearl Harbor, on Ford Island, tells the story of aviation in the Pacific during WWII and what happened there during the attack on Pearl Harbor. They have just opened the first floor of the restored control tower. You'd enjoy visiting!
  7. Erin Wells

    Erin Wells Registered Guest

    Wow! That sounds amazing! I would love it for sure! Thank you so much for all of your wonderful information! Mahalo!

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