Galalith is the name of a plastic developed in Germany in the late 19th century.Galalith, made from casein, a milk-based protein gets it trade name ‘milk stone’ from the Greeks – gala for milk and logos for stones. Galalith started as a failed attempt to produce a plastic material specifically for “whiteboards,” intended to replace blackboards in the German classroom.
In the early 1900’s, notable French and German jewelry makers such as Coco Channel and Jakob Bengel began using the material in the production of jewelry, with its widest use in the 1920’s and 30’s. Restrictions on milk use during WWII slowed, and then eliminated, the production of Galalith and once replaced by other modern plastic materials, which could be cast and heat-molded, Galalith never regained its former popularity.
With collector interest rising for antique and vintage plastic jewelry along with the value, modern producers are making new plastic jewelry that closely resembles older jewelry pieces, especially those produced from original molds or molds taken from original pieces. Jewelry and other articles made from the newer plastics, as well as older items made of Galalith, are advertised and sold on the Internet as "French Bakelite," even though they are not old and not a phenolic plastic.
Galalith and Bakelite are often confused, and even though both are a type of plastic and used in much the same way, the two are not related, nor are the terms interchangeable. Newer plastics and casein plastics like Galalith are not Bakelite, and cannot be described or sold as Bakelite or so-called "French Bakelite.”
On Ruby Lane and other e-commerce sites, using the term Bakelite to describe an item made from a modern plastic is deceptive and constitutes keyword spam. Bakelite is a trade name; it describes a specific type of phenolic plastic – it is not a generic name meant to describe any type of plastic.