Between 1907 and 1909 Dr Leo H. Baekeland was conducting experiments and he accidentally discovered Bakelite. During the 1920s and 1930s it was widely used by costume jewellery manufacturers as it was cheap, could be dyed, easily carved and incorporated with other materials like chrome. You can find bangles, earrings, cufflinks, necklaces and, of course, brooches.

This pear brooch is dyed and carved giving it a realistic shape. There is even a little green stalk.

There wasn’t only Bakelite jewellery, every day household and office items were also mass produced. In fact, every conceivable object has been made in Bakelite. There is a Bakelite museum which holds Britain’s largest collection. And for those who want a weekend away there is the Bakelite museum in Amsterdam.

There are a few ways to test to see whether a piece is Bakelite or not. The most common is the smell test. If you rub genuine Bakelite with your thumb or finger it should give off an unpleasant smell, this is the smell of formaldehyde. Another way is the feel and weight of the piece. Bakelite is a heavy type of plastic. There is the hot pin test but I do not recommend this one. You are likely to cause damage. I personally have never tried it.

By the 1950s Lucite had replaced Bakelite as it was cheaper to produce. The decline of Bakelite had begun.

Pears have been cultivated in China for approximately 3000 years, and in the Roman cookery book attributed to Apicius, De re coquinaria, there is a recipe for Patina of Pears, a spiced egg custard. If you would like a modern day copy of the recipe Contact Me.