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Help with dating a bakelite necklace

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion - Ask Questions Get Answers' started by Elly Maggy Vintage, Jun 17, 2014.

  1. Elly Maggy Vintage

    Elly Maggy Vintage Registered Guest

    Hi there,

    I sell vintage on Etsy and am looking for some advice in dating a necklace, which is proving rather tricky! I usually sell clothing so jewellery is not my specialist area!

    I have asked some sellers on Etsy who have offered a variety of eras from the 30s/40s to the 80s. I have not tested the plastic yet but a few sellers have mentioned that it looks like bakelite or lucite.

    I wondered if there are any plastic jewellery experts who might be able to help? I have posted pictures on my facebook page:

    [link removed by admin]

    If you need any more pictures, just let me know!

    Thanks so much for your help. I'm looking forward to hearing more advice and finding out more about this necklace.
  2. Elly Maggy Vintage

    Elly Maggy Vintage Registered Guest

    I have worked out how to upload files directly (sorry I'm new to the forum!).



    Back, showing metal bolts. The thread is a transparent material / plastic:






    poppysvintageclothing likes this.
  3. Retro Ruth

    Retro Ruth Administrator Staff Member

    Hi and welcome to the forum

    Well done for working out how to upload pictures! I removed the link from your first post.

    I'm not a jewellery expert, but I fairly certain bakelite doesn't come in that clear swirl. It's always opaque. There is no test for lucite I believe.

    I suspect it's nearer to the 80s end of the range people have suggested, but we have some very knowledgable jewellery folk on these forums, so I'm someone will come in and offer a more informed opinion. Probably later in the day, as many are US based.
    Elly Maggy Vintage likes this.
  4. Pinkcoke

    Pinkcoke Alumni

    I also saw 80's in this, with an African vibe. I imagine they used that sort of clasp as it is a weightier piece. It reminds me of the faux-tortoiseshell sunglasses' plastic.
    Elly Maggy Vintage likes this.
  5. Retro Ruth

    Retro Ruth Administrator Staff Member

    I do remember those clasps, where you hook it in, and push to click closed.

    I'm not sure how long they were/have been around for, but if I remember them they were probably in use in the 1980s. I don't think they are still used much? I doubt they go back as far as the 30s/40s.
    Elly Maggy Vintage likes this.
  6. Elly Maggy Vintage

    Elly Maggy Vintage Registered Guest

    Thanks very much, Melanie and Ruth! Some Etsy sellers suggested that the clasp is similar to ones used in the 30s and 40s but I think the consensus is starting to move to the 80s. Thank you! I'll look forward to hearing more from the US folks too! And using the forum more often! I've been using the site for ages but haven't posted here before :)
  7. Retro Ruth

    Retro Ruth Administrator Staff Member

    You are welcome, and please keep posting! I'm guessing you are in the UK, by the timing, and spelling of jewellery. I love seeing more Brits here.
  8. Pinkcoke

    Pinkcoke Alumni

    I have seen the hook/push clasp most commonly on 50's 60's choker & swag beaded necklaces, but they nearly all have large very fancy diamante set clasps, this streamlined/industrial look is a new one to me.
    Retro Ruth likes this.
  9. Elly Maggy Vintage

    Elly Maggy Vintage Registered Guest

    Yes, I am!
    Pinkcoke and Retro Ruth like this.
  10. Metro Retro Vintage

    Metro Retro Vintage VFG Member

    Hi Elly -- I'm going to buck the trend and say that it looks period to me (30's/40's). There is something very Auguste Bonaz looking about it as well.

    Have you looked very carefully to see if there is any kind of tiny signature in back? I would go ahead and chemical test (and then clean off the residue very well with water), but more importantly, I would do some research on it regarding its design.

    Good luck -- it's wonderful looking!
  11. The Vintage Merchant

    The Vintage Merchant Administrator Staff Member

    i agree with Laura, and was also going to say it looks older than younger to me, as well.

    a correction about bakelite: it DOES come in translucents, as well as opaques, the color is sometimes referred to as "rootbeer" by some collectors.

    as Laura suggested, testing it will help you. sometimes, if you rub bakelite you will be able to notice the camphor aroma, if not, try running a part of it under warm water.
    Elly Maggy Vintage likes this.
  12. thespectrum

    thespectrum VFG Member Staff Member

    I have been holding my tongue to see if Laura would weigh in on this.
    I too think it looks older & Mary is correct, root beer/rootbeer bakelite is an excellent search term for you.
    Elly Maggy Vintage likes this.
  13. Retro Ruth

    Retro Ruth Administrator Staff Member

    Good to know! Clearly, I'm no jewellery expert.

    You should definitely weigh Laura's opinion highly, she knows her jewels.
    Elly Maggy Vintage likes this.
  14. cmpollack

    cmpollack VFG Member


    If you google "Auguste Bonaz" you'll find several examples of a similar design necklace, different colorway. Cathy Gordon (an author and collector/expert) has some examples of Bonaz jewelry on her site, including a contrast between an authentic Bonaz and a fake:


    The clasp on yours does look period.
    Elly Maggy Vintage likes this.
  15. Looks like Bakelite to me, too. Test it to see, although some black will not test positive with simichrome....so do the "rub" test, too! Rub it with

    your fingers to create some friction and heat and it may have a certain smell that is detectable and sometimes it doesn't. I think it's older, too....30s-40s. In the 70s and

    80s there were styles that resembled the pieces of this era....art deco, but the way this is assembled looks earlier. YSL did a belt in the 70s that

    had links that were made from tortoiseshell bakelite and clear(I have them both)....they test with simichrome and and the smell test, so it's easy to see why there is some

    question on this piece and it's hard to tell totally unless you can hold it in your hand. Heft is sometimes a very valuable thing to help identify and

    looking at the piece for mold marks, too. These criteria are hard for me, anyway, to determine from a photo! I love the style of this piece!
  16. Elly Maggy Vintage

    Elly Maggy Vintage Registered Guest

    Wow, thanks so much, everyone! This is all so helpful.

    I cannot see a signature on this piece. There are no mould marks either.

    Would an earlier piece be threaded with a transparent / plastic thread?

    Re: the clasp, there are little perforation marks on the box part of the clasp. I don't know if this showed on my photograph.

    It looks very similar to the Auguste Bonaz necklaces. Thanks for the link. Could this be a Auguste Bonaz piece or do you think it's just a similar style?

    I am going to try testing and will update :)
  17. Luna Junction

    Luna Junction VFG Member

    Hi Elly,
    Nice to see you here.
    That plastic thread was called "catgut" (ugh--ugly name). It WAS used in some earlier jewelry. If you can see skinny wires twisted in the middle of the plastic, that's called "tiger tail" (much nicer name) and that would make it later. I have old versions of those insert/safety clasps in my stock for the jewelry I create from vintage, so they do go back a ways.
  18. Elly Maggy Vintage

    Elly Maggy Vintage Registered Guest

    Hi Sunny,

    The forum is really useful! I'm very glad I posted here.

    Thanks very much for your help with the wires. It's interesting to learn their names!

    It's hard to see the thread as it's not flexible enough to pull but from what I can see it doesn't appear to have twisted wires. It appears to be very thin straight wires.
  19. peaceful vintage

    peaceful vintage Administrator Staff Member VFG Past President

    I agree with much of what has been said. I have seen similar clasps in pieces that were described to be 30s, it does look a lot like some Auguste Bonaz necklaces, and there were a lot of newer pieces made to look like old. It does look like Bakelite but some plastics especially that color look like Bakelite when they are not. Here are two bracelets I have had. One is genuine Bakelite, the other is not.

    Genuine Bakelite

    Not Bakelite

    Identifying by eye and even scent can be really tricky if you don't have experience with Bakelite. Simichrome should give you a positive yellow result on this color if it's Bakelite. If you don't have Simichrome you may be able to find it at a local hardware store. If not, you may be able to find Autosol or Flitz which is also said to produce a similar yellow positive result.
  20. Retro Ruth

    Retro Ruth Administrator Staff Member

    Simichrome is not available in the UK (you have to import it at great expense), nor I expect Autosol or Flitz. For some reason, brands for cleaning and suchlike products are very country specific, I can almost never follow product recommendations from overseas.

    I'm never sure what equivalent to use for simichrome for bakelite testing. Any kind of metal polish? There is one here called 'Peek', but I don't know if does the same thing as simichrome.


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