This example is a new fantasy item, not an old Bakelite plastic bangle. Contemporary fakes, fantasies and reproductions, collectively sometimes referred to by collectors as, 'Fakelite,' are currently being made. Reproductions made specifically to look like known Bakelite jewelry pieces from the past and new fantasies and fakes made in designs that were never originally produced during the historic Bakelite heyday, may be mistaken for old jewelry. Newly made items not marked by the modern artisan who made them can be a concern even for those who consider themselves to be expert, knowledgeable buyers. And even if marked because of the nature of Bakelite these can easily enough be removed or changed through polishing.
New reproductions and fakes are often composed of a chemically similar, or nearly identical formula, to that of old Bakelite. Some new items are being crafted from old Bakelite pieces and rod blanks. So, relying on one of the familiar 'tests' for Bakelite that collectors have devised no longer provides certainty about an object's age and a 'positive' reaction shouldn't be used alone for authentication.
This piece may seem comparable to old Bakelite bangle bracelets seen in reference books, but it also looks modern, different and the octopus motif too odd for its supposedly vintage time. Don't allow yourself to be swayed by comments suggesting that because something is so different, it must be rare (and thus, valuable). 'Very different' often also equates to 'new.' Look at the item, not the price. Investigate a bit further if you have reason to suspect a lack of real age. The Internet is a wonderful tool and a quick search may reveal the same item currently advertised elsewhere as 'one of a kind' by several other vendors, too. Of course, even if other examples cannot be found, that is no guarantee a claim of 'rare' is accurate.
Ideally, for authenticating a Bakelite jewelry item accurately, it will be able to meet multiple specific considerations one expects to see in vintage plastic jewelry. Just as a knowledgeable collector/dealer of glass or pottery will observe other factors besides an obvious maker's mark, the collector of Bakelite jewelry should try to train their eye to do the same.
Check aspects such as the appropriateness of design and its execution. Anachronistic artwork or findings are always a tip-off that an item is new. An example of an anachronism would be the presence of a motif popular in modern times but which was not popular, and so never used, during the time period suggested for the production of the item.
No matter how well taken care of, a truly vintage item logically must have at least some small signs pointing to true age. Not unlike older furniture, old Bakelite pieces tend to develop patina, by virtue of simply having been worn next to the skin, or just exposed to air and light for many years. Look for indications of color change. For instance, an outside surface that is darker than an inside surface. Old Bakelite colors oxidized over time and mostly they are not the same today as when first produced.
A buyer who perhaps has not handled many authentic pieces might not know where to look for 'patina'; or they might not be aware of what the surface of a truly old Bakelite piece shouldn't look like. This can mean they may not be able to recognize a total absence of patina on a new piece in their hand. Fakers rely on this. To explain their complete lack of patina fakes will frequently be represented as old Bakelite jewelry that has been stringently cleaned. Be suspicious of pieces that entirely lack patina, showing absolutely no sign of age or use.
While it is always possible for an authentically old piece to have been stripped of its patina, it is not logical. Most collectors prize an original surface and generally would never drastically strip a piece in their possession. Stripping, or 'over-cleaning,' can affect the value of old Bakelite simply because now there is nothing left to help surely differentiate it from a newly made item. Is patina on a stripped item likely to return? Sure, but that process may take as much as 50 years or more.
A seller may suggest they know their bracelet is an old example because it once belonged to their grandmother or because...? (name any other likely reason). They might hint at the same time that they are not very knowledgeable about Bakelite jewelry. The price on a mimic item will invariably be much higher than its actual value, or original wholesale price, but that price will almost always still be much lower than what one normally would expect to pay for a similar, authentically old item. Temptation pricing will almost always lure the unwary into making a quick impulse buy, because they are led to believe they are viewing an accidental 'bargain.'
Many new artisans today are making their own quality, innovative designs in various types of plastic. Collecting their work may prove one day to have been a savvy and worthwhile investment. But knockoffs and anonymous factory made fakes being made with the intent to deceive collectors and imported by the boatload do not share that distinction in the eyes of collectors today. So it is unlikely those items will be valued very highly in the future, either.
This bracelet is 2 inches wide and has an inner opening 2 5/8 inches in diameter.
Points in a Bakelite Jewelry Checklist can sometimes provide solid clues for the identification of individual items. While viewing the item shown in in this listing, see if any of these points could have been used to help identify it as a new item:
1. Check for overall patina - or the lack of it;
2. Look for shiny, spotless, brand new looking pins, findings or hinges;
3. Pins, findings or hinges that appear much too rusty or abused may have been falsely aged;
4. Check for attachment methods or findings never used on period items;
5. Does the overall 'look' of a piece seem 'too contemporary' in color or style? Is it completely different from authenticated vintage Bakelite jewelry documented in respected references?;
6. Look for anachronisms, as defined above;
7. Mold lines or seams - old Bakelite doesn't have them;
8. Chalky white recessed surfaces in carved areas, announcing recent, poorly finished work;
9. Very sharp edges on carvings, another sign of recent work;
10. Glue that glows. Glue was not typically used in the manufacture of older Bakelite jewelry, but it may be present in some design elements on pieces from the 1950's or if undisclosed repairs were made to older pieces. Use a blacklight to check whether glue is present, and if so, if it is old or new. New glue will glow brightly, while old glue does not.
Illustrations and Characteristics for Help in Identifying Many Confusing New Items
Item listings in this shop are intended to be viewed for educational purposes, only. Items in this shop are not for sale.