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.
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