Friday, October 28, 2011

Lucite Jewelry: Identifying Varieties or Types

Bakelite and Catalin are thermoset plastic brand names.

This is a fabulous explanation of Lucite types.  Full credit goes to poodlearts on Ebay.

Lucite is the queen of diversity, appearing in many forms, colors and styles in jewelry from the 1940's on, although it was most popular during the '40's and '50's.  It is an acrylic resin, and one type of  thermoset plastic (Bakelite is another, although Bakelite is a phenol formaldehye resin).  A brief aside here to clear up a point - the term 'thermoset' does NOT refer to a specific form or style of plastic; it is a broad-based term referring to any plastic that, once heated and formed, cannot be melted down and reformed.
And so, the purpose here is to illustrate a variety of the forms of lucite that you might come across.  Although clear in its original state, like the apple pendant above, lucite can be tinted virtually any color, in ranges from transparent to opaque, with a few interesting variations along the way.

The Basics:  Solid-Color Lucite - Solid colors are used for many purposes; white lucite can look like milk glass in a pair of earrings; black lucite can be used like onyx; many pieces have been carved or molded to add interest.  Pictured is a navy bangle with carved accents, a bright yellow bangle, a pair of blue earrings with a molded pattern, and a necklace with solid-color turquoise beads.
Moonglow Lucite - Probably one of the most popular forms of lucite, Moonglow pieces look as if lit from within, and come in a complete range of colors, as well as being used in almost all forms of jewelry - from beads to bangles to insets in earrings, brooches and necklaces.  The first picture is a pair of simple lilac-purple clipback button earrings; the other photos show an assortment of colors and sizes of beads.

Confetti Lucite - Confetti Lucite encompasses a wide range of variations, all basically a transparent form of lucite with chips or glitter encased.  The first illustration is a classic blue confetti lucite button; the second is a red glitter-encased lucite pendant.  The third is a brooch set with a classic example of an opal lucite cabachon.
Granite Lucite - A beautiful variation, granite lucite is normally opaque, with 'chunks' or bits of lucite in varying colors that emulate the look of granite - but in a wide variety of colors.  elow shows a cuff bracelet with a green granite lucite cabachon, and an interesting white variation with blue and orange in a pair of earrings from Japan.
Embedded Lucite
This form usually uses clear lucite over embedded objects - small seashells, flowers, rhinestones, whatever the artists could come up with.  The example below is a pair of earrings with tiny flowers embedded under clear lucite.
Molded Lucite - Actually, this term probably covers most lucite pieces.  However, I am using it here with jewelry that uses multiple pieces.  These pieces are often referred to as 'thermoset', which is why I've included them here.  These molded pieces may use any of  the varieties shown above, and moonglow lucite is one of the most popular forms, especially in earrings and necklaces.   Shown below are several pairs of earrings that use a variety of colors and shapes.
Other Variations - These are many other variations I've come across, although they are less common than those covered above. A few are illustrated below - the first is a necklace with 'marbled' beads that look almost like unakite in coloring.  The turquoise cabachons are a combination of granite lucite and webbing.  The pearls are actually two varieties; the smaller pearls are a pearlescent lucite, while the larger baroque pearls have a pearl coating over lucite.  And finally, the blue beads combine marbling with moonglow lucite - a striking combination!.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Hattie Carnegie

Hattie Carnegie (15 March 1880 — 22 February 1956) was a fashion entrepreneur based in New York City from the 1920s to the 1960s. She was born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary as Henrietta Kanengeiser.
The second oldest of seven children, Hattie Carnegie's father was an Austrian Jewish artist and tailor, thought to have introduced her to the world of fashion.

Carnegie, who emigrated with her family to the United States at the age of six years old in 1886, was known for her elegant couture collection and secondary ready-to-wear lines. Her company was revolutionary in the sense that it was one of the first to introduce ready-to-wear to the high-end market. She pioneered the 'head-to-hem' boutique concept that paved the way for the future success of Ralph Lauren in America. Her company discovered some of the most prominent American fashion designers of the twentieth century, such as Norman Norell, Pauline Trigère and James Galanos; for nearly a decade, the made-to-order department was headed by Pauline Fairfax Potter.

Hattie Carnegie was originally a milliner and owned a successful shop on East Tenth Street in New York named Carnegie - Ladies' Hatter . Despite the fact she had never sewed a seam in her life and had no formal training, she swiftly opened a dress shop on the Upper West Side and finally in 1923, she opened the famous Hattie Carnegie boutique at 42 East 49th street, close to the current address of Saks Fifth Avenue.

Carnegie enjoyed tremendous success throughout her career but the proudest moment came when she designed the Women's Army Corps (WAC) uniform in 1950. They were adopted for wear on New Year's Day 1951. On 1 June 1952, Hattie received the Congressional Medal of Freedom for the WAC uniform design and for her many other charitable and patriotic contributions. The WAC design was so timelessly elegant that it was still in use for women's U.S. Army uniforms in 1968.

Hattie Carnegie designs are in the collection holdings of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; and at the Museum of Lifestyle & Fashion History in Boynton Beach, Florida.

"Simple, Beautiful Clothes"
Carnegie's belief in simplicity fit perfectly with the streamlining of 1930s design. She believed that "simple, beautiful clothes … enhance the charm of the woman who wears them. If you have a dress that is too often admired, be suspicious of it." The dress, she insisted, must fit and not overpower the woman who wears it. She was unabashedly devoted to Paris fashion and made regular buying trips throughout the 1920s and 1930s. Yet while she was a self-declared Francophile, she adapted French style to American tastes by offering a blend of style and comfort that suited many fashion-conscious Americans who still wanted their clothes to have a French flair.

Designing for the Middle Class
Carnegie's expensive original designer clothes were out of reach for many Americans, but this did not limit her influence on American design. Hers were among some of the most widely copied designs by popularly priced designers. As the decade wore on, Carnegie added a modestly priced, ready-to-wear line of clothing that proved to be the most lucrative of her enterprises. She made her modestly priced clothes more available to the average consumer by permitting some department stores to carry the new line, breaking from her usual practice of selling her clothes at her own shop. This practice secured her influence over both haute couture and popular wear.

For decades Hattie Carnegie's personal taste and fashion sense influenced the styles worn by countless American women. Whether they bought her imported Paris models, the custom designs, the ready-to-wear collections, or the mass market copies of her work, women welcomed Carnegie's discreet good taste as a guarantee of sophistication and propriety. Carnegie's business ability and fashion acumen enabled her to build a small millinery shop into a wholesale and retail clothing and accessory empire and made her name synonymous with American high fashion for almost half a century.

Carnegie's place in fashion history was assured not because of her own designs, but because of her talent for choosing or refining the designs of others. Between the World Wars, the list of couturiers whose models she imported included Lanvin, Vionnet, Molyneux, and Mainbocher—classic stylists—but also select creations for Chanel and Patou, Schiaparelli, and Charles James. In fact, Carnegie claimed in an April 1949 Collier's article to have had a three-year unauthorized exclusive on selling Vionnet models in the early 1920s, a few years before Vionnet started selling "to the trade."

The Custom Salon was generally considered to be the heart of the Hattie Carnegie operation, since it was with made-to-order fashion that Carnegie began. The focus of her business was to interpret European style for American consumers, but the sense of dress she chose to champion was not contained in the minutiae of design. It was instead an approach to fashion that emphasized consummate polish in every outfit. Norman Norell, who was with Carnegie from 1928 to 1940 (primarily as a ready-to-wear designer), remarked in American Fashion (New York, 1975) that he often worked from models that Miss Carnegie had brought back from Paris. He could legitimately claim, however, that he had imprinted his own signature on his designs for the firm, and it is often possible to make an informed attribution of Hattie Carnegie styles to her other designers. Certainly one gown featured in a 1939 magazine layout is recognizably the work of Claire McCardell, who spent two years with the firm.

Carnegie was already established as a taste-maker by the time she added the ready-to-wear division to her company in the 1920s. "Vogue points from Hattie Carnegie" contained her style tips and forecasts for Vogue readers. At the Hattie Carnegie salon, a customer could accessorize her day and evening ensembles with furs, hats, handbags, gloves, lingerie, jewelry, and even cosmetics and perfume— everything, in fact—but shoes.
The Carnegie customer, whatever her age, seems to have been neither girlish nor matronly, but possessed of a certain decorousness. Even the casual clothing in the Spectator Sportswear and Jeunes Filles ready-to-wear departments was elegant rather than playful. The Carnegie Suit, usually an ensemble with dressmaker details in luxury fabrics, traditionally opened her seasonal showings. She often stressed the importance of black as a wardrobe basic, both for day and evening, but was also famous for a shade known as "Carnegie blue." Perhaps Carnegie's preference for 18th-century furnishings in her home relates to the devotion of formality so clearly expressed in her business.

During World War II Carnegie was an impressive bearer of the standard of the haute couture. French style leadership was unavailable, and designs from her custom salon took pride of place in fashion magazines and on the stage, as in the original production of State of the Union by Lindsay and Crouse. Carnegie's leadership was also important to other fashion industries. She had always used fabrics from the best American textile companies, and continued to patronize specialty firms such as Hafner Associates and Onondaga Silks, which were not immersed in war work. She also used fabrics designed and hand-printed by Brook Cadwallader, and continued to do so after French materials again became available. Only after Carnegie's death did the company claim to use exclusively imported fabrics.

Hattie Carnegie died in 1956; the fashion empire she had built survived into the 1970s, but in 1965 the custom salon was closed and the company concentrated on wholesale businesses.

  • Epstein, Beryl Williams, Fashion is Our Business, Philadelphia and New York, 1945.
  • New York and Hollywood Fashion: Costume Designs from the Brooklyn Museum Collection, New York, 1986.
  • Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, New York Fashion: The Evolution of American Style, New York, 1989.
  • Steele, Valerie, Women of Fashion: Twentieth Century Design, NewYork, 1991.
  • Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York,1996.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Road to Morocco

    We were looking for a spring orienteering trip and weren’t having much luck. Last year, we travelled to Portugal and Spain with Sun-O and had a great orienteering adventure. There were a lot of positives to doing a similar trip this year. Interesting terrain, different culture and history, excellent weather, small field (by European standards – only about 1000 participants), and few North Americans. Plus, many of the European teams were there for spring training camp so the elite races were quite competitive. In our hotel alone were the Swiss and Norwegian national teams. Despite all these positives, we felt a bit of “been there, done that.”
    Until we noticed that Sun-O now offered an option to add a side trip to Morocco for a few days of orienteering and sightseeing. It was advertised as the first multiday event ever in Morocco and likely to be the first event there of any kind other than one urban sprint.
    Almost before we knew it, we were on a plane to Madrid and then into the rental car for the long drive to the Portuguese coast and the town of Figueira Da Foz (200kms north of Lisbon) for the Portugal Orienteering Meeting (POM). The exact dates for POM vary from year to year and this year it was held several weeks earlier than last year.
    This year, POM was a bit disappointing. The weather turned cold and damp and the terrain was not as interesting (coastal pine forest similar to the New Jersey Pine Barrens or Florida with sandy soil, lack of complex contour and rock features with an extensive trail network). Despite this, the courses were well designed and challenging and included four days of main events, two models, a night urban sprint, and a Trail O. The WRE on Day 2 was hotly contested and won by Thierry Gueorgiou (France) and Simone Niggli (Switzerland).
    A few days of sightseeing and then we headed 200kms inland to the Norte Alentejo town of Crato for the second WRE called Norte Alentejo Orienteering Meeting (NAOM). A model, middle, sprint, and long courses were high quality events on much more interesting and challenging terrain (very detailed, flat and rocky) and the weather was slightly better. The winners of the WRE events were Olav Lundanes (Norway) and Helena Jansson (Sweden).
    After the event on Sunday, a long 6 hour drive led us to the southeastern coast of Spain for a few days of training in Andalucia. The tour organizer (Sun-O) set out streamers in the woods for self-paced training on several maps of the national park in the area. In addition to the solid orienteering terrain, the hotel was on the training maps and we were only 200 meters from the beach. Too bad the weather did not lend itself to sunbathing or swimming!

And finally off to Morocco
    Up before dawn on Wednesday for the 1½ hour drive to Algeciras for the “fast ferry” to Ceuta on the North African coast where we met our travel companions for the next part of the trip. The only other North Americans were Margaret and Brian Ellis from Canada. The remainder of the group were half from Spain and the rest from northern Europe.
    The ferry ride across the Strait of Gibraltar was picturesque with the Rock of Gibraltar serving as backdrop as we sailed away from Europe towards Africa. The ride was about an hour and then we stepped onto African soil. Or did we? Yes, we were on the African continent, but still in Spain. The town in which we landed was the Autonomous City of Ceuta, a small remnant of colonialism which remains Spanish territory (much to the chagrin of Moroccans). Even though it is on the African continent, the Euro is the official currency, Spanish is the official language (although French and Arabic are widely spoken), the houses are whitewashed, and there is no official border crossing. In this way, it is similar to Gibraltar (which is British territory located in Spain).
    And, where were the sand dunes with camels?  This part of Morocco is quite steep and forested with a mild, Mediterranean subtropical climate with a decent amount of rainfall. Not one shifting sand dune to be seen.
    We boarded our bus for the tortuous ride to a small national park in the nearby mountains. As the bus climbed high above the port, we spotted controls in the woods. The Moroccan tour guide chattered on in English and then Spanish about the city below us on our right, but all eyes were glued to the hillside on our left as we yelled, ‘There’s another one in that steep reentrant!” We knew we were getting close to making history by being the first people to orienteer in the North  African forests. We disembarked at a pull out on the side of the road (complete with restaurant and spectacular views of the city and the Mediterranean), changed into O gear, and hiked to the start on Mirador de Isabel II.  The course was a Motola, with four map exchanges (map and photos on page 27).
    A quick recovery and change of clothes and we were on our way back to town for lunch and a few hours of self-guided sightseeing (we spent our time mostly visiting a fort and then napping on a bench in front of a shrine of some sort). The bus then maneuvered its way through the town of Ceuta and then the start of our journey south to the town of Chefchaouen (founded in 1471, situated in the Rif Mountains, known for its blue-rinsed houses and buildings).
    But first, we had the border crossing to deal with. Because Ceuta is EU territory, but located in Africa, it is a focal point for illegal entry and security is tight on both sides of the border. Two 30-foot high patrolled barbed wire fences made the area seem more akin to the DMZ. We were sternly told, “no photos allowed”.
    Our Moroccan tour guide collected all our passports, tossed them in a plastic shopping bag, and casually strolled over to the guard house to have them stamped.  About 40 minutes later he returned, distributed all the passports, and we were ready for Morocco. Except me. I did not get my passport back. A few tense moments while the guide searched. We were the only US citizens. Did they want my passport? All kinds of crazy thoughts race through your head at times like this. But, alas, the guide had just decided it would be fun to play around for a bit. Finally, he “found” my passport, laughed, and we were ready for Morocco. This time the bus moved forward, all of us filled with anticipation.
    Arriving in Chefchaouen after dark, exhausted, we checked into our hotel. We opted to stay in a traditional Riad, steps from the main square in Chefchaouen’s tiny medina or old city. The other option was a modern European style hotel just outside the medina. The main redeeming quality of the European hotel was that it was the only place to purchase alcohol in the entire village. A real dilemma for us, but we opted for tradition, deciding we could always go to the bar at the other hotel (we never did because the bar was filled with tourists, all smoking heavily).
    After settling into our room, we joined our traveling companions for a traditional Moroccan dinner (tajine, a vegetable stew with chicken, couscous and harira, an interesting tomato based soup), and then off to bed for an early start the next day.
    No alarm clock needed in Morocco as the call to prayers assured that we arose before dawn each day. But, the early awakening did give the opportunity to explore our unique lodging and the surrounding area.
    Chefchaouen’s medina featured a labyrinth of Byzantine passageways and dead end streets, too narrow for any vehicles with four wheels to travel. This was the venue for the morning event, a sprint/middle in and around the medina and it proved to be the highlight of the trip.
    We have done urban sprints in Europe, but this added another dimension with the intricate nature of the streets. Also, fifty or so Europeans in orienteering kit running through the medina proved quite a contrast to the residents in their traditional garb. But, the locals were curious and very friendly, with many of the children directing us to the controls and even offering to take our punch cards and run ahead to punch for us. Perhaps some orienteers for the future…
    In the afternoon, we were led on a guided walking tour of the medina (including the areas through which we had just orienteered) and a demonstration of traditional rug weaving. But, we were not done orienteering just yet. Event 2 was held on more traditional, but very steep, orienteering terrain outside the city and finished once again in the medina. 
    Our last night in Morocco began with another traditional dinner at the hotel. This was followed by awards and several presentations, including one by the local tourism board about preserving traditional Moroccan culture and how orienteering tourism could fit right in.
    Once again we collapsed into our bed ready for an early start the next day. The highlight of our last day was a sightseeing tour of the city of Tetouan and a lunch at a restaurant which included traditional (we called it touristy) Moroccan dancing and music.
    The brutal bus ride back to Ceuta through this mountainous area provided the opportunity to reflect on this unique experience. Orienteering in Morocco is still in its infancy and we were the “guinea pigs” to help Sun-O determine whether to expand this option. Even though there are currently only a few small maps, the combination of the culture and the orienteering proved an intriguing mix. The main topic of conversation on the bus was looking out the window at the terrain and debating whether it would be suitable for mapping – a clear indication that everyone seemed to give the trip a thumbs up!
    We concluded our trip with another WRE weekend event (model, middle, sprint, long) in Ronda, Spain. Ronda is best known for the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge), completed in 1751, which dramatically transverses the 98m El Tajo gorge below and is still in use today.
    Finally back to Madrid and a few days of sightseeing before returning home.
    All in all, the trip provided an excellent mix of culture and orienteering. We didn’t tally up the events, but during the three weeks we could have probably done a different orienteering event every day (two on some days) if you included the models and the trainings. We can recommend it to anyone looking for intense orienteering training with an option to experience the cultural history of this part of the world – true orienteering tourism.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Bakelite & Catalin

The History of Bakelite & Catalin and How to Test for Authenticity


Bakelite Jewelry has become a hot collecting area in the last several decades. How do you know if the piece that you recently purchased is the genuine item or a fake reproduction or "fakelite," also currently being offered in large numbers online and at flea markets? I'll do my best to take some of the mystery out of this popular subject, since knowing how to test for bakelite will help you to also date your jewelry.
Before I comment on the testing for bakelite content, I'd like to give you a short history of the early depression material, which details the differences between the two materials commonly referred to as bakelite.

History of Bakelite
The words "bakelite" and "catalin" are often used interchangeably. However, they are actually two different materials. Both are thermoset plastics made from formaldehyde. The differences between the two are in the fillers used, origin of manufacture, the opaqueness, and the colors available. Most bakelite jewelry that you see for sale is actually catalin. 
This thermoset plastic made from phenol formaldehyde has fillers to make it more durable, stronger and less expensive. The filler could be rags, cotton, wood, carbon black - even asbestos. Because of this, reworking the product can make it harmful to your health. By and large, bakelite is very opaque. True bakelite colors are normally very dark because of the fillers.

Bakelite is a US manufactured product, patented in 1907 by a Belgian chemist, Dr. Leo Hendrik Baekeland, working in New York. Most early uses of Bakelite were radios, handles for pots and pans, castings for televisions, toys, etc. Some was even used in coffins! Bakelite was manufactured between 1907 and 1927.

Catalin is a thermoset plastic made from either phenol, melamine or urea formaldehyde, that normally has no fillers. It can be reworked and is usually very colorful. Catalin is also very translucent. Sunlight causes catalin to lighten over time. Catalin is also subject to shrinkage.

When the patent for bakelite expired in 1927, the patent was acquired by the Catalin Corporation in the same year. The Catalin Corporation is thought to be responsible for nearly 70% of the phenol resins available today - thus the statement that most bakelite jewelry sold is actually catalin. Catalin jewelry production continued through the 1930s and 40s in abundance. With the introduction of lucite in the 1950s, the production of vintage catalin jewelry effectively ceased in the 1960s, although it is still possible to get reworked pieces which were manufactured much later than this date.
Testing of bakelite and catalin
One of the easiest ways to test for the difference between the two materials is to hold them up to a very strong light. Light will not pass through bakelite since it is opaque, but will filter through the more translucent catalin. Even black catalin allows some light to pass through it. 
Further testing for actual bakelite or catalin content
There are many different tests used to test for bakelite/catalin - including the hot water test, the friction test, the scrubbing bubbles test (not recommended, since Scrubbing Bubbles is caustic and will strip the finish of the jewelry), the 409 test, and the Simichrome polish test. None are conclusive on their own. Once you have some experience with the product, you will get a very good feel for it by just sight. Bakelite and catalin have a very distinctive look to them. 
French Bakelite - Far East Bakelite - Fakelite
This is not considered true bakelite by vintage jewelry collectors. I have seen a great deal of French bakelite for sale on auction sites such as ebay. The pieces are lovely, with highly carved designs and vibrant colors. They sometimes fetch high prices.

However, this type of jewelry is neither bakelite or vintage. It is mass produced, newly manufactured plastic fashion jewelry with little or no collector value. The same is true of the mass produced items labeled as bakelite from the far east. If there is a lot of it for sale, you can be sure that it isn't true bakelite, which is very hard to come by. I buy estate jewelry collections all the time, and rarely find genuine bakelite pieces in the estates. Also, French bakelite will not pass the bakelite tests outlined on this page.
As bakelite prices have risen, this "Fakelite" has appeared on the market. Although some of the sellers of Fakelite insist that it will pass chemical testing, none of it successfully passes hot water testing. Fakelite smells "wrong" (unlike bakelite) when tested with hot water.

409 Testing
This is the easiest test for the beginner. Lightly dampen a Q tip swab in 409 cleaning solution and rub it gently on an inconspicuous area of the jewelry piece. If the material is bakelite it will turn the Q tip bright yellow. (not brown - brown is just dirt.) The 409 should be thoroughly rinsed off, since it could damage the finish of the piece. This test is a good indication that the jewelry tested is bakelite, but not absolutely conclusive. It should be combined with the hot water and smell test described below. 
Scrubbing Bubbles Testing
Dow bathroom cleaner - popularly known as scrubbing bubbles used to be widely used for testing of bakelite jewelry. Vintage Jewelry Lane does not recommend that you use this method, since the product is very caustic and has been known to strip the finish from the jewelry piece. 
Simichrome Polish Test
This is similar to the 409 test, except that you use a polish called Simichrome Polish, which is available online or at most hardware stores. This test is a little more expensive, since Simichrome is more expensive than 409. Put the polish on a soft cloth and wipe over the jewelry to be tested. Once again, it should result in a bright yellow area on the cloth. Simichrome doesn't have to be rinsed off, and it can be used to polish the whole piece of jewelry. Not a conclusive test, especially on reworked catalin, but fairly conclusive in combination with the hot water test. 
Hot water test
This test is very accurate, but requires some experience, since one needs to know what formaldehyde actually smells like. Run the water in your tap (or heat it in the microwave oven) until it is very hot and hold the jewelry piece in it for 15-30 seconds. Immediately smell the article. If it is bakelite or catalin it will have the distinctive smell of formaldehyde. A burnt milk smell indicates French Bakelite, and a camphor smell indicates Celluloid - another early vintage plastic.

A lot of the reworked catalin pieces will not respond to the Simichrome polish or 409 tests, but should respond to the hot water test. It is still possible to get a false positive to this test, if the piece is newly polished, carved or highly dirty. Also, be very careful of the water on the findings, since the water can loosen glue. Always dry thoroughly.

Friction test
This is similar to the hot water test, but is helpful when there is no hot water available, such as time when you are at a flea market or other sales venue. You simply rub the jewelry piece until your thumb feels very hot and then smell it. It will give off the distinctive formaldehyde smell. 
Hot Pin Test:
I strongly discourage this method of testing, since it requires that you actually damage the piece of jewelry which will devalue it greatly. It requires heating a pin tip until it is red and then touching it to the bakelite/catalin object. The characteristics of true bakelite or catalin insure that the piece will not melt, so a pin cannot pierce it. The heat of the pin will, however, cause a dark spot to remain on the jewelry piece, which cannot be removed. 
Other Indicators of True Bakelite or Catalin
Bakelite/Catalin jewelry will never have seams or mold lines. White jewelry is a good giveaway that it is not bakelite or catalin, since both have a yellowish patina which develops over time. A chalky finish which looks like dust and will not wash away is never found on the true product. (This is a good indicator of a newer material referred to as "fakelite.") Finally, true bakelite pieces will have a distinctive clunking sound when tapped together.

As indicated above, no one test is totally conclusive for guaranteeing that your jewelry piece is true bakelite or catalin. When used in combination with all of the other tests, a positive test on each can help you to feel fairly certain that you really do have a collectible piece of vintage bakelite or catalin jewelry.

Final notes on testing methods
Not all jewelry pieces which actually are Bakelite will pass these tests. This includes pieces which are very dirty, pieces which have previously had their finish stripped with chemical test agents such as Scrubbing Bubbles, some reds, many blacks, and jewelry pieces which have a coating which is resin washed. Pieces which have been covered with a plastic sealant compound, and jewelry pieces which have been sanded will not pass the test. And finally, newly re-worked pieces made from Bakelite and freshly polished pieces may not pass these tests but may still be bakelite.

In addition, some pieces which are NOT bakelite may pass some of these tests. For this reason, it is very important to test with several methods, including hot water and 409, and to also look for other evidences of bakelite content, such as oxidation and patina.

Learning New Words - Parure

Being a former English teacher, I love to learn a new word and love the history of words even more...

Parure - noun

Matching jewelry containing several pieces such as necklace, choker, brooch, earrings, bracelet and ring. Demi-paurure consists of only two to three matching pieces.

A set of jewelry including a necklace, bracelet, earrings, brooch, and ring. That's considered 5 items (earrings are 1). However, most people consider a parure everything except the ring. Demi Parure is 2 pieces of jewelry or more pieces but less than 4 pieces (again, earrings are 1). So, a bracelet and earrings, or a necklace and bracelet, or a necklace and earrings, or a brooch and earrings, or bracelet and brooch, etc. would be a demi parure.
[French, from Old French, adornment, from parer, to adorn; see pare.]

Okay, so off to add this word to a few of my Etsy listings.