Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Bright Idea

This is a tale of bakelite loss, and epic redemption. Two years ago, I saw my dream bangles up for auction on eBay. I was fairly underemployed at the time, and painfully watched them sell for a disturbingly small amount of money. Needless to say, they've taunted me since. It was a set of clampers, with a celluloid chain connecting them - bakelite handcuffs!

I casually asked Jesse of Brighter Bakelite if he'd be willing to drill small holes into two matching bangles for me, so I could make my own... he basically said no, haha. It was a matter of principle. For those of you who haven't been introduced, Brighter Bakelite is a business that restores bakelite back to its original colors. Over the years, bakelite develops a yellow patina over its surface, changing the vast array of original colors into the same old hues you are familiar with - green, brown, yellow, black, etc. Jesse carefully polishes his pieces (even carved ones!), removing years of discoloration and dirt. The results are... frankly, jaw-dropping. Since Jesse is trying to restore bakelite beauties to their original glory... he wasn't about to go drilling holes in it willy nilly.

But look! When two bangles with mysterious metal loops appeared, he knew they were destined to be mine. These were a muddy brown before restoration. Jesse even got the patina out of the holes! I'm slightly convinced he is secretly a wizard.

I'm so smitten. 
It's not just the vivid hue - it's the translucent & opaque marbling, and the shine. Pictures don't do justice to how glossy they are, I'm completely blown away. I didn't really know bakelite could be this shiny.

I still can't believe I have these, so freaking lucky. Thanks again to Brighter Bakelite for keeping me on your radar! Be sure to check out his etsy shop... and try not to drool all over your keyboard. (Yeah, right.)



  1. They are just divine. It seems the universe just wanted you to have them!

  2. Huh, I have never seen linked ones like that before. They're great!

  3. Beautiful! So nice he kept you in mind so you could finally have your very own bakelite handcuffs! I drool over his etsy shop on a regular basis and have thankfully managed to miss my keyboard :) I got to check out his wares in person at the Fab Gabs booth when they were visiting Alameda and was blown away by the colors. I hope to finally purchase something from him soon!

  4. How immensely awesome that you were able to replicate the Bakelite piece that got away (oh, how I can relate to the feeling of watching something you love/want/covet sell on eBay for a sum that, even while modest, was beyond your budget at a given moment and the secret desire that then sets in to find that, or a very similar, item again some day). Jesse did a bang up job! These bangles seem to glow as if lit from within and are all kinds of magnificent!

    ♥ Jessica

  5. these bangle glow like the sun on a late afternoon in fall. blah! they are just beautiful!

  6. hey, tomorrow the beloved striped 50s dress i bought at lucky dry goods will be the center part of my berlin fashion week outfit. a friend got us tickets to lena hoschek. i just believe it, after having seen the show! how exciting.
    have a lovely week.

    1. Oooh FUN! I hope you take pictures! ;)

  7. how do I tell if what I purchased REALLY is Bakelite?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Not sure if you mean *in general*, or from brighter bakelite, so I'll answer both;)

      in general:
      1. there's chemical tests (point 2), but it's not like you're going to be carrying around a bottle of chemicals when out shopping. the easiest when out and about is rubbing the piece with your thumb, and smelling the spot you rubbed. (yes you'll look like a weirdo in a goodwill, but worth it) if its bakelite, you will smell a chemical scent from the piece. once you smell it, you'll never forget it.
      2. chemical testing, you can use several things. silver polish works (but also sometimes gives false positives), 409, simichrome (most common), and I use a weird cleaning product called "LAs awesome".... if you rub a qtip with any of these products on bakelite, it'll turn mustard yellow. if its not bakelite, it doesn't turn any color.
      3. the more you get to know bakelite, the easier it is to identify. honestly, you just become so familiar with its feel, smell, clunk, weight, color.... you just know. but if you're just starting, stick with #1 and if you can, #2.

      when it comes to knowing in terms of brighter bakelite... as I mentioned, he gets all the patina off, exposing their original colors. it's the patina that tests chemically. so once he gets all the crap off, it wouldn't chemically test anymore. BUT. it still passes the first rubbing test. on the majority of pieces, Jesse doesn't remove all the patina, he'll leave it intact on the inside of the bangle (where it won't show), that way you can still chemically test it as positive.

      On a personal note, I'd also add: Gotta be honest, I know him, he's not a stranger. The man *knows his bakelite*. He has zero interest in scamming ppl, bc he has zero interest in any plastic substance that isn't bakelite, it just doesn't float his boat. I realize that's my personal endorsement, but whatever.

      Unfortunately, not everyone is like this. Never buy from ppl who don't say something hasn't been chemically tested, don't buy from ppl who say it "seems like bakelite". that's nonsense.

      I hope that was helpful, let me know if you have any other questions!

      xo Sara

    3. OH thank you so very much--I'm ready to hit the few shops we have and start "testing"

  8. Ohh, those are simply amazing! And soooo super shiny.


  9. Those are amazeballs!! I'm convinced Jesse has secret powers too! Completely and utterly in love with everything Brighter Bakelite's shop!
    ~xoxo, CoriLynn