Posts tagged antique jewelry
The Language of Birds

The Victorians assigned symbolism to many things and birds in jewellery held a nuanced and precise meaning. Below is an overview of this meaning. 

Swallows and bluebirds

Both swallows and bluebirds had a special meaning for seafarers because these birds were the first sign that land was near. Swallows were thought to lead ships home and prevent them from being lost. The meaning assigned to these birds became to be 'safe home', or ‘to safely return home’ and so they were often given to loved ones when they set out on a journey. They also symbolised 'heart and home'  and were associated with faithfulness. 'Messengers of Venus' was another assigned meaning. Flying birds in general were thought to represent the soul. 

Victorian turquoise set swallow or bluebird brooch

Victorian turquoise set swallow or bluebird brooch

Aesthetic Movement (Late Victorian) 'Sweetheart Brooch'. Swallows are known to mate for life so were therefore often given to one's sweetheart. Brooches with the swallow motif are often known as 'sweetheart brooches'. 

Aesthetic Movement (Late Victorian) 'Sweetheart Brooch'. Swallows are known to mate for life so were therefore often given to one's sweetheart. Brooches with the swallow motif are often known as 'sweetheart brooches'. 

Victorian Swallow brooch. Two swallows signified romantic love. 

Victorian Swallow brooch. Two swallows signified romantic love. 

A blue bird or swallow with a wishbone was  a common design, signifying 'Wish for lasting love'

A blue bird or swallow with a wishbone was  a common design, signifying 'Wish for lasting love'

Doves

Doves have carried the meaning of hope and peace since ancient times.  During Victorian times, they were often shown with the word pax (the Latin word for peace) holding an olive branch in their beak. The dove was a symbol of faith and was meant to represent The Holy Spirit.  The French 'Saint Esprit' or 'Holy Spirit dove' could often be depicted descending from heaven to earth with wings spread. Doves were often pavé set with turquoise, which was meant to bring luck to the wearer. When the dove held a heart in its beak, it symbolised love.

Victorian Turquoise Pavé dove bangle. Currently for sale at Elder and Bloom. 

Victorian Turquoise Pavé dove bangle. Currently for sale at Elder and Bloom. 

Bird's claw

A bird's claw meant 'Thinking of you' or 'Praying for you.'

In Victorian times, actual bird's claws were sometimes turned into brooches. (One of these will never be sold by Elder and Bloom!)

In Victorian times, actual bird's claws were sometimes turned into brooches. (One of these will never be sold by Elder and Bloom!)

Phoenix 

A phoenix represented renewal, resurrection, rebirth and immortality. 

Art Nouveau Phoenix locket. Previously sold by Elder and Bloom. For more information see  here.

Art Nouveau Phoenix locket. Previously sold by Elder and Bloom. For more information see here.

Swan

Swans were symbolic of 'purity and grace'. 

Late Victorian Swan Brooch. Previously for sale by Elder and Bloom. 

Late Victorian Swan Brooch. Previously for sale by Elder and Bloom. 

Humming Bird

The meaning of the humming bird was 'God's Tiny Miracle'

Victorian Hummingbird pendant. Previously for sale at Elder and Bloom. 

Victorian Hummingbird pendant. Previously for sale at Elder and Bloom. 

Pheasant

The pheasant was thought to symbolise nobility, virtue and refinement.  It also evoked the spirit of the countryside. 

Victorian pique pheasant brooch. Previously for sale by Elder and Bloom. 

Victorian pique pheasant brooch. Previously for sale by Elder and Bloom. 

Love birds

Love birds signified faithfulness, eternal love and marriage

Victorian 'love bird' brooch. 

Victorian 'love bird' brooch. 

Blackbirds

Blackbirds were worn during mourning.

Victorian Blackbird mourning brooch. 

Victorian Blackbird mourning brooch. 

Crow or raven

A crow or raven meant 'Protection of friends'.

Owl

An owl represented vigilance and wisdom. 

Peacock

A peacock represented immortality, beauty and knowledge.

Eagle

An eagle represented nobility, strength, courage, wisdom and power.

Feathers

Feathers signified 'obedience' and could imply the obedience of a wife to her husband or to God. 

Parrot 

Parrots and birds of paradises were also often depicted but I have yet to discern the symbolic meanings. 

Victorian parrot pendant with real feathers. 

Victorian parrot pendant with real feathers. 

© Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Jugendstil

Jugendstil was an artistic style or design movement that arose in Germany around the mid-1890s and continued until at least the end of 1910. The movement also spread throughout the other German speaking and Nordic countries.

It appeared to originate from the Berlin Werkstatte – the collectives of artisans and craftspeople that flourished during the era.  The name ‘Jugendstil’ literally means Youth Style and derives from the Munich magazine Die Jugend (‘Youth’).

An image from Jugend Magazine. It was filled with art such as this.

An image from Jugend Magazine. It was filled with art such as this.

With the Jugendstil design sensibilities there came a reverence for youth, for nudity and a more liberated sexuality, for all things ‘natural and free’. Women wore their hair long and flowing, corsets were ditched and a general joie de vivre was embraced by all.  (I have always maintained that these naturalistic movements of the late 1800s were a precursor to the 1960s American cultural revolution).

There were two somewhat distinct phases in Jugendstil. Prior to 1900, the designs tended to be floral and to be more influenced by Art Nouveau and Japanese design, as well as more Victorian in flavour.

Early Jugendstil Brooch. Elder and Bloom. 

Early Jugendstil Brooch. Elder and Bloom. 

Later, came a more abstract and architectural phase, at times machine like, pre-echoing by over a decade the geometrical designs of the Art Deco era. (This later phase was greatly influenced by the Belgian architect Henry van de Velde.)

Late Jugendstil Brooch. Elder and Bloom. 

Late Jugendstil Brooch. Elder and Bloom. 

Jugendstil is a cousin of the English Art Nouveau movement and certainly has much in common with the Arts and Crafts movement. Although often referred to as the ‘German Art Nouveau’ (even by myself), Jugendstil is quite distinctive and is also compelling in its originality and character.

Sources / further reading:

https://beautifulantiquetreasures.com/2013/03/15/international-names-for-art-nouveau/

https://beautifulantiquetreasures.com/2013/02/17/the-female-form-in-art-nouveau-jewelry/

https://beautifulantiquetreasures.com/2013/02/13/the-art-nouveau-whiplash-motif/

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Henry-van-de-Velde

© Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Earring Styles

Below, you will seven styles of earrings commonly found in antique and vintage jewellery. (In a previous article, I discussed how to age earrings by the  findings. )

Stud earrings

Stud earrings became popular in the late 1800s but fell out of use when ears stopped being pierced in the early 1900s. They became popular again in the early 1960s and continue in popularity to this day.

Gold, diamond and silver stud earrings. England, late 18th century. V&A Museum

Gold, diamond and silver stud earrings. England, late 18th century. V&A Museum

3.50 Carat European Cut Diamond Stud Earrings, c. 1900. Photo courtesy of LangAntiques.com (Note the ‘threaded posts’ - these can be indicative of a finer piece). 

3.50 Carat European Cut Diamond Stud Earrings, c. 1900. Photo courtesy of LangAntiques.com (Note the ‘threaded posts’ - these can be indicative of a finer piece). 

Button Earrings

This type of round or domed earring with no dangling element first became popular in the 1930s. Earlier examples tend to have screw backs whereas those from the 1950s and 1960s tend to be clip-ons. From the mid-1960s onwards some button earrings were also produced for pierced ears.

Vintage Angel Skin Coral clip on button earrings. Elder and Bloom

Vintage Angel Skin Coral clip on button earrings. Elder and Bloom

Top and Drop Earrings

This is a style of earrings which has two sections, usually round or oval.  The two sections normally match and the bottom section is normally the largest.  The top section usually hangs just below the lobe except when there is a pierced post and then it might sit on the lobe itself. The style has been around for centuries but is associated with the Georgian era as it was so popular in that era.

When the bottom section is detachable, these are known as day to night earrings as they can be converted for daytime or evening attire.

Antique gold and coral ‘Top and Drop’ earrings. Elder and Bloom.

Antique gold and coral ‘Top and Drop’ earrings. Elder and Bloom.

Pendeloque Earrings

This is a style which began in the 1800s. It is similar to the Top and Drop earring  style, but the two sections are connected by a third central section, designed as a bow.

Pendeloque gold filigree and pearl earrings. Salamanca 1800-1870. V&A Museum.

Pendeloque gold filigree and pearl earrings. Salamanca 1800-1870. V&A Museum.

Girandole Earrings

This is a style which has three dangling elements with the central element usually being the largest or hanging lower than the other two elements.  The style first appeared around 1700 in France but is often associated with the decade of 1870 as it experienced enormous popularity during the Rococo Revival of that period.

Antique gold and coral Spanish Girandole earrings.

Antique gold and coral Spanish Girandole earrings.

Drop Earrings

This is a very popular style which consists of a single element attached to the finding.

Victorian drop earrings with À jour settings. Elder and Bloom.

Victorian drop earrings with À jour settings. Elder and Bloom.

Chandelier Earrings

This is a style of earring which has tiers of dangling elements, resembling a chandelier. They are often associated with the Mid-Victorian era.

Queen Letizia of Spain wearing chandelier style earrings.

Queen Letizia of Spain wearing chandelier style earrings.

© Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

À jour

À jour is a term used in jewellery manufacturing which describes an open backed setting that allows the light to shine through the gemstone, enhancing the scintillation, brightness and colour. À jour settings are not found prior to 1800 when nearly all gems were mounted with closed backs.

The term à jour is from the French word for ‘day’.

 

Victorian earrings with  à jour  settings

Victorian earrings with à jour settings

Please note: Plique à jour is a type of enamelling that incorporates an open background which is filled with transparent enamel.

© Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

The Greek Key Motif

The Greek Key Motif

The ‘Greek Key’ motif in jewellery can also be known as the ‘Running Dog’, the ‘Greek Fret’, the ‘Maze Pattern’, the ‘Labyrinth Pattern’ or the ‘Meander Motif’. The name is derived from the River Meander, the historical name for the Büyük Menderes River in contemporary Turkey. The River Meander had many twists and was mentioned by Homer in the Iliad.  There is also said to be a connection between the motif and the Cretan labyrinth.

The earliest examples of the motif have been found in the farming communities in Anatolia, 6000 BC and it was a common pottery design throughout Neolithic Europe. It was the most important symbol in ancient Greece, decorating many temples and objects. Interestingly, the Ancient Chinese developed a similar design known as ‘Chinese Fretwork’. Variations of the motif are also found in African, South American and Native American design. It is also reminiscent of many Celtic design elements. 

 

To the Ancient Greeks, the design symbolised infinity or the ‘eternal flow of things’. It is also said to symbolise friendship, love and devotion and is given as a marriage gift to this day. It is also thought to represent the four cardinal points or the four seasons. 

Most of us will recognise this ubiquitous motif even if we are not aware of the name or the origin.  There are many variations – sometimes the pattern is rectangular and sometimes it is rounded, sometimes there is a simple geometric design and other times is is more elaborate and complex. It may boarder an object or cover a larger area. (If the decoration forms interlaced patterns, it is known as Guilloche.) However, two elements remain consistent – the design is maze-like and repetitive.

Georgian and early Victorian Neo-Classical and Architectural Revival

The Georgian era was distinguished by several great archeological discoveries greatly influencing Georgian jewelry motifs.  When the ruins of Pompeii were excavated from 1706 to 1814 a wave of Neo-classical design influenced almost every area of manufacturing, art and craft. In the 1760s in particular, Roman and Greek motifs, such as Greek Keys and laurel and grape leaves, abounded. The Greek Keys motif was particularly popular on the mountings of cameo. The Greek Keys motif continued in popularity through the Victorian era and remains popular to this day.

Fine Antique Coral Cameo Brooch within a Frame Accented By Greek Key Motifs And Applied Ropetwist Borders, With Pendant Hook, Mounted in Gold c.1801-1908 Prices4Antiques

Fine Antique Coral Cameo Brooch within a Frame Accented By Greek Key Motifs And Applied Ropetwist Borders, With Pendant Hook, Mounted in Gold c.1801-1908 Prices4Antiques

Art Deco

The Greek Keys Motif experienced another wave of popularity during the Art Deco era. However, many have said that the designers of the Art Deco era were in fact deriving their ‘Greek Key’ Motifs from the Egyptian designs that were being uncovered during the great archeological discoveries of the era. This makes a certain amount of sense as the Art Deco era is not known for it’s neo-classical styles, besides the Greek Key, but is of course renowned for it’s Egyptian Revival styles. Regardless of the inspiration, the motif is still referred to as ‘Greek Keys.

Art Deco Greek Keys bangle. Elder and Bloom.

Art Deco Greek Keys bangle. Elder and Bloom.

Onyx

Onyx, with its sleek and glossy beauty, has long been sought after for use in jewellery. It  is often thought of as being pure black but in reality it is usually banded white and black or banded white and brown.  It can come in a variety of other colours, such as shades of white, green and red, but these colours are not generally found in jewellery usage.

Onyx is a variety of chalcedony. It can be differentiated from agate because the bands in onyx are parallel whereas in agate they are curved. Onyx is cool to the touch, quite heavy and has a highly polished and glossy finish.  For this reason, it can sometimes be confused with French Jet. 

The demand for pure black onyx has traditionally outstripped the supply so most all black onyx is dyed.  This is why most black onyx has such an even finish. A trained eye can tell the difference between dyed and natural onyx under a loupe by looking for uneven surface colour.

Victorian Era

Black onyx was particularly revered by the Victorians, especially during the Grand Era 1861-1880. The Victorians of this era loved all black materials and the fashion of wearing mourning styles went far beyond that which was necessary.  They created a wide variety of jewellery items from all black onyx, including lockets, pendants, brooches and earrings. They also mixed it with coral, turquoise, seed pearls and rubies.

Victorian onyx and rose gold earrings. Elder and Bloom.

Victorian onyx and rose gold earrings. Elder and Bloom.

Art Deco Era

Black onyx was also especially beloved in the Art Deco era as the stone lent itself to the bold and stark minimalism of the Machine Aesthetic. Jewellery designers used contrasting materials such as coral, jade or diamonds to further accentuate the beauty of the black.

[caption id="attachment_5829" align="aligncenter" width="564"] Art Deco Diamond, Jade, Platinum and Onyx earrings. 1stdibs[/caption]

Theodor Fahrner was a well known Art Deco designer who used onyx in many designs.

Cameo

Onyx is also one of the most popular materials for cameo as the bands are ideal for creating contrasting relief images. Sardonyx is the name for the brown and white banded variety of onyx that is often used for cameo and intaglio.

Sardonyx cameo portrait of the Emperor Augustus. British Museum.

Sardonyx cameo portrait of the Emperor Augustus. British Museum.

© Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sources / further reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onyx

http://www.langantiques.com/university/Onyx

http://www.collectorsweekly.com/fine-jewelry/onyx

 

Birthstones

These gems have life in them:  their colors speak, say what words fail of.  ~George Eliot

A birthstone is a gemstone that is said to represent a specific birth month. Gemstones have long been thought to contain meaning and power and these properties are said to be accentuated when worn by someone born in the corresponding month.

The idea of birthstones is thought to have been inspired by the story of Aaron in Exodus who wore twelve gemstones in his breastplate representing the twelve tribes of Israel. These twelve gemstones came later to represent the twelve months of the year in popular culture.

The allocations of birthstones have fluctuated throughout history and vary according to region, country and source. There is also debate concerning the names of gemstones throughout history and how these relate to the gems we know today (obviously, there are no lab records so we cannot always verify which precise gemstone was being referred to).

According to the American Gemological Association, the following are the agreed upon birthstones. These allocations have been consistent since 1912, with Tanzanite being recently added for December. In brackets beneath some of these, I have put some other even more traditional correlating stones.

JANUARY

Garnet

FEBRUARY

Amethyst

(Pearl)

MARCH

Aquamarine

(Bloodstone or Red, Yellow, Orange or Brown Zircon possibly referred to as Jacinth or Hyacinth in ancient times).

APRIL

Diamond

MAY

Emerald

JUNE

Pearl  

Alexandrite

(Agate or Cat’s Eye)

JULY

Ruby

(Coral)

AUGUST

Peridot
Sardonyx
Spinel

(Moonstone)

SEPTEMBER

Sapphire

(Chrysolite)

OCTOBER

Tourmaline
Opal

NOVEMBER

Topaz
Citrine

DECEMBER

Turquoise
Tanzanite
Zircon

Please also see my previous post ‘The Language of Stones’ where I discuss the tradition of ‘acrostic’ jewellery.

© Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder and Bloom LLC, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder and Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Cartier Collections - Trinity de Cartier

Trinity de Cartier

The Cartier Trinity Ring is a signature design of the world renowned Parisian jewellery company (1847 - Present). It was first created in 1924 by Louis Cartier. The beautiful interlocking white, yellow and pink gold bands have since gone on to inspire many other Cartier pieces, including bangles and necklaces, incorporating the same basic interlocking design. 

The ring was adopted by the French artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau and has been favoured by many other high profile people. At the time, the simplicity of the design was in juxtaposition to the more outlandish Flapper aesthetic. 

The three bands of the Trinity design are said to represent whatever the wearer chooses but  'Fidelity, Friendship and Love.' is one popular interpretation. 

Sources / further reading:

https://uk.pinterest.com/explore/trinity-ring/?lp=true

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartier_(jeweler)

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Pp-kBQAAQBAJ&pg=PT819&lpg=PT819&dq=trinity+de+cartier&source=bl&ots=0xQLhZ8-uF&sig=UBEfmHiAPtd3KWCcXi8jeVoSoUU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiy5dyo87XUAhWFIpoKHQvoCuM4HhDoAQh_MAM#v=onepage&q=trinity%20de%20cartier&f=false

http://www.cartier.co.uk/en-gb/collections/jewelry/collections/trinity-de-cartier.html

https://www.elderandbloom.com/articles/2017/1/5/trilogy-and-trinity-rings

Natural Materials

The wide variety and beauty of the natural materials used in vintage and antique jewellery is staggering. It seems jewellery designers never cease in their inventiveness. Here is a list which I believe is comprehensive or almost comprehensive (there is bound to be something I have left out).

I have excluded metal as that seems to deserve it's own separate list. 

Art Deco Amber Earring. Elder & Bloom

Art Deco Amber Earring. Elder & Bloom

 

Amber

Animal parts (ie Rabbit Foot)

Bog Oak

Bone

Butterflies and insects

Cinnabar

Coral

Flower and Plants

Gems & Gemstones

Hair

Horn

Ivory

Jade

Jet

Marcasite

Pearl

Sea Shell

Stone (Mosaics)

Tortoise Shell

Tooth

Tusk

Wood

Victorian Coral Earrings. Elder and Bloom. 

Victorian Coral Earrings. Elder and Bloom. 

 

Copyright © 2017 by Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder & Bloom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder & Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

Piqué
Earrings, tortoiseshell inlaid with gold and silver (piqué posé), English, ca. 1850.      Photo copyright of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Earrings, tortoiseshell inlaid with gold and silver (piqué posé), English, ca. 1850.  

Photo copyright of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Piqué work was a method of inlaying gold, silver and sometimes mother of pearl into tortoiseshell and other materials to create truly stunning effects.   Piqué originated in Italy in the mid 1600s and then spread to France where it was further developed as a technique.  The English also enthusiastically adopted the method and English piqué jewelry is the most prevalent.  Jewelry was first made with this technique in the early 1800s and piqué jewelry peaked in popularity in the 1850s to 1880s.  It was considered appropriate for mourning because of the dark colors. It quite abruptly ceased to be made almost entirely by 1885. Earlier designs were much more naturalistic and softer; later designs became more geometric as production methods became more mechanized.

Generally, pure gold and silver were used as the metals.  It is quite difficult to metal test such small amounts of metal but it can generally be assumed that if you have a piece of genuine tortoiseshell and the design is well executed that the gold or silver is high carat.  Sometimes brass was also used. In order to embed the metals, the tortoiseshell was heated up first which caused it to expand and soften whilst the metals were worked in.

There were two types of piqué work: piqué point, in which gold or silver pins are driven into the tortoiseshell or other material to create the design and piqué posé, in which the design is engraved and then threads or small pieces of gold and silver are used to fill it in. You will sometimes hear piqué referred to as piqué d’or but this is only correct when referring to gold piqué work. Two major piqué artisans were:  Laurentini and Charles Boulle.

Christies sale 1447, 14 December 2004, New York, Rockefeller Plaza.     Lot Description ‘A Group of Antique Pique Jewelry. Mid 19th century’

Christies sale 1447, 14 December 2004, New York, Rockefeller Plaza. 

Lot Description ‘A Group of Antique Pique Jewelry. Mid 19th century’

Piqué work was of course worked into different materials other than tortoiseshell, particularly celluloid which can appear quite similar to the untrained eye.  One method for testing for tortoiseshell is to burn a very small place with a hot pin; if you smell burning hair it is most likely to be tortoiseshell.  Another test to see if it is celluloid is to run it under very hot water; if it gives off a plastic smell it is celluloid.  However, the absolute best way is to handle enough pieces so that you know the difference by eye.  Another base material I have seen is wood.  The other materials sometimes used were elephant ivory and horn although less commonly for jewelry.

Today, piqué jewelry is considered extremely collectible.  It can never be made again as of course tortoises and elephants are protected species.  Available Piqué jewelry is therefore only going to become rarer. Piqué jewelry is truly marvelous to behold, very wearable and absolutely beautiful.

Sources / further reading:

http://antiques.about.com/od/victorianandedwardian/a/Pique011810.htm

http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot/a-group-of-antique-pique-jewelry-4396864-details.aspx?intObjectID=4396864

http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/jewelry/a-victorian-tortoise-shell-and-citrine-bangle-5285462-details.aspx?from=searchresults&intObjectID=5285462&sid=5dae670b-6768-4e60-8a48-5b68db3d575f  

 

Copyright © 2017 by Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder & Bloom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder & Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Bakelite Test
Bakelite bangle. Elder and Bloom. 

Bakelite bangle. Elder and Bloom. 

 

Testing for Bakelite is remarkably easy.  To put it quite simply: all you have to do is get some silver polish containing simichrome and rub it on the piece using a paper towel.  If the paper towel shows a yellow color, it is Bakelite.  If it doesn’t, it is not.  (There are some exceptions to this, such as black Bakelite, which may not show positive results).

What I like about this test is I don’t have to try and identify the subtle differences in smells when the piece is run under hot water.  I don’t know about you, but I find those kinds of test very difficult.  I think I have a decent sense of smell, but the moment I over-think it I can’t tell the subtle differences in smells of different plastics – I am a human, after all, not a sniffer dog!

However - sometimes dark coloured Bakelite will not show positive results with this test. In this case, if you run the piece under very hot water for a few seconds and then smell, it should smell quite strongly like nail polish if it is genuine Bakelite. If it has neither the correct odour nor positive results with the simichrome test, then it isn't Bakelite. 

It’s worthwhile knowing how to recognise Bakelite is becoming increasingly sought after and rare and has considerably more value than other plastics, whether it’s used in jewelry or other objects. It can also be remarkably lovely.

Copyright © 2017 by Pippa Gaubert Bear and Elder & Bloom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pippa Bear and Elder & Bloom with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.