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Bakelite beads or necklaces are probably my favourite form of early plastic jewelry. They can be worn anytime, anywhere, with anything, by all ages. There are colours to match every outfit and mood and they come in all sizes, shapes and lengths. They became very popular in the 1930s for beach or town wear as they were such fun and easy to wear. I love the way the colours catch the light, especially the tortoiseshell, and marbled beads.
Colours are usually rich and deep, often marbled and they can be transparent too. You won't find white - it darkens to mustard with age, or pastel shades like pink or pale blue.
Until you get a feel
for recognising Bakelite, make sure you buy from reputable dealers. You
can learn about identifying early plastics here.
Along with pendants, beads were one of the earliest type of Bakelite necklaces and are still readily available. They were usually strung on cotton, which in many cases has worn away, so most necklaces these days will have been restrung.
Some European bead necklaces were strung on fine chain or connected with metal findings while the Americans often used Celluloid chains.
Cherry Amber Bakelite necklaces command much higher prices than other colours especially the very long opera length strands and the carved or faceted ones.
Beads were cut from cast cylinders of Bakelite. They were then carved or shaped according to the design. There are many faceted examples as well as carved flowers, and finally they were tumbled to a highly polished finish. The holes were drilled by a machine with drills on each side which met in the middle of the bead.
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