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Thinking about Bakelite brooches and pins as I have been doing recently, I realise I have to retrain my imagination when thinking about the fashions of the 1920s and 1930s. Like most of us perhaps, used to seeing images of that era in old Hollywood movies, and faded sepia photographs, we tend to think of the time as only existing in black and white and dull colours.
But when you get into collecting Bakelite, you realise that it was a very colourful time. Yes, Bakelite did come in some earthy tones like butterscotch, tortoiseshell or leafy green. But there were also bright reds and yellows and very vibrant greens, and a lot of the brooches and pins were quirky and fun.
Most Bakelite brooches and pins have at least some carving on them, and many were also decorated with the addition of rhinestones, and wooden or metal parts. Some of the European ones in particular are very geometric and modern looking with little metal rings on them or geometric shapes.
Bakelite brooches and pins fall into a few basic categories:
These are often just straight rectangles with some decorative carving on, but they also come in the form of leaves and abstract designs. Many of these come in subtle earthy colours; amber, transparent apple juice, browns, greens, mustardy yellows and butterscotches.
Those that were originally white of course would have faded to mustard. Some of the more ornate ones are transparent reverse carved which means the carving was on the underside and decorated with little flowers or even underwater scenes.
Just about every animal you can think of has been made into a Bakelite brooch; horses, dogs, cats, birds and fish, insects even and elephants, lobsters, frogs, ducks and little Bambis but probably the most popular of all has to be the scottie dog.
The scottie dog was already extremely popular as a brooch, and many were made in celluloid, the forerunner of Bakelite and Catalin. Bakelite scotties come in every colour under the sun in singles and doubles and on little leads dangling from bars and with nodding heads. You name it, it’s been done.
Carved flower brooches come in all shapes and sizes and colours. Some of the most common ones are little roses which are now deep butterscotch colour but would have been originally white.
Probably some of the most popular and most copied Bakelite pins are the little bar brooches with fruits dangling from them. The most well known is the Bakelite cherries pin, which comes in red or yellow, but more rarely strawberries or other fruits there were also used.
Red love hearts were also particularly in the 1940s during the war years.
And those are just some of the more common types of Bakelite pins. Just about any subject was fair game and you will find little characters such as sailors or clowns, anchors from ships, boats, palm trees, faces, hats - whatever the imagination of the creator dictated.
I bet the original manufacturers never in a million years imagined that their little plastic brooches would become such must have, desirable collectors pieces in years to come.
These days I find the best sellers are all on Etsy and that's where you'll find the most interesting selection.
So buy the best quality and the most attractive brooches you can, In a few years they will become real antiques and kept in good condition could be an excellent investment.
If you want to find out more, read this marvellous book by well-known collector Karima Parry. Just click on the image to see reviews.
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