Casein or Galalith was a plastic made from milk protein and formaldehyde. Invented in Germany it was launched by The International Galalith Gesseschaft Hoff & Co. at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1900.
Casein plastic could not be moulded like Bakelite but had to be cut or carved from rods or sheets. It was beautifully glossy and could be polished to a long-lasting silky lustre, but due to its tendency to warp or splinter could only be used for small pieces.
It is still used for buttons to this day. If you love buttons and buckles, click on the link above which takes you to my friend Liz's site - she has a wonderful array of vintage buttons and buckles from all kinds of early plastics including some great Art Deco designs. Art Deco designers who used Galalith included Jacob Bengel and Auguste Bonaz.
Bearing no maker's mark, Bengel designs have only recently been identified from manufacturer's design books from Idar-Oberstein in Germany where he worked. His pieces, like many German pieces of the time used plastic mounted on metal. Chrome or nickel plated mesh was often enamelled and incorporated Bakelite or Galalith beads or centrepieces which were chunky and heavy. The German style of the time owed much to the Bauhaus machine age style which was bold and austere.
Auguste Bonaz was a French designer based at Maison Bonaz in Paris. He became particularly well known for his hair combs and jewellery in striking Art Deco shapes made from Celluloid and Galalith which imitated horn and tortoiseshell.
Below are some selections I have made from the excellent Ebay auctions in the USA, UK and Australia. My tips for buying on the internet will give you peace of mind before joining or bidding on Ebay. Registering with Ebay is without cost and very easy, via the listings.
A guide to the wonderful world of Bakelite and early plastics. Explore Bakelite phones, radios, jewellery, kitchenware and more.....