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Fakes and Phonies are all around!
I shop at flea markets, antiques shows and antique stores 1-3 times a week. I regularly shop in Chicago, Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, North Carolina, Miami, Michigan and NYC. MANY pieces of Fakelite have been spotting in quality antique stores. There is a lot of it out there. Some reputable dealers are selling it. I do not believe that it is intentional fraud. Many antique dealers who offer Bakelite do not necessarily specialize in Bakelite, so they are unaware of fakelite. It is important to remember that most antique dealers get their items the same way YOU do, from estate sales, auctions, flea markets, other dealers, and eBay! It is ignorant to work under the assumption that you cannot buy fakelite from a reputable dealer, you can certainly do so. The nature of the transaction (honest mistake or dishonesty) does not alter the fact that you have just spent your hard earned money on a worthless fake!
Remember the Three Bs - Be Cautious, Be inquisitive, Be Smart!
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I am of the opinion that eBay should take steps to protect the integrity of the vintage, retro / bakelite, plastic category. It's a shame that some sellers are being allowed to offer up FAKELITE jewelry in this category.
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Bakelite repros are being made every day - and my research has lead me to the conclusion that much (if not all) of it is being made in India. Check out this website featuring random-dot like bangles, and be sure to read the cryptic description. I hope "F Bakelite" means "Fake". I'm sure many of their customers think it means "French", because that is how they are being advertised on certain online auctions . Click here
You can find bangles that look like bakelite, but I will stop short of calling these items fakelite because :1) they do not test using any method, including smell; and 2) they are not being misrepresented in any way. I am only mentioning this to raise awareness of their existance, or if you want to pick up some great looking and very inexpensive bangles. You can find these at Forever 21 stores, and also H&M stores.
REMINDER - Regarding FRENCH BAKELITE:
Generic name: Casein-formaldehyde (yes, it DOES contain formaldehyde, contrary to what others are stating).
Trademarked names: Galalithe (was first shown at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900); Amerioid; Erinoid; Aladdinite; Lactoid
It has NOT been produced for at least 25 years, and continued production much longer in Britian than in France!
Here is a fascinating history of Casein:Click Here
REAL AUTHENTIC French Bakelite (aka GALALITH) DOES HAVE A SMELL!! It smells like scalded or burnt milk when rubbed or hot water tested. Just because something is coming from France, and it's plastic, does not automatically make it French Bakelite. "Sometimes I sing and dance in my underwear, but that don't make me Madonna!"
I have been trying different testing methods and have discovered that if you run fakelite under HOT water for at least 4 minutes, the phenol smell will disappear, and a "plastic" smell remains behind. I recommend this test for items that can be safely put in water (bangles, some necklaces, rings).
V Shaped Pin Backs - I have gotten several messages regarding the sudden appearance of V shaped pin backs on "vintage" bakelite pins and brooches. Thank you for sharing that info.
Weird Bakelite Rings - Rings with carved Scotty dogs, bugs, snakes, and lips can all be found today. The fact that they are being touted as "vintage" is laughable.
Fat Prystal Bangles -The Fakes are getting better. Watch out for heavy, oversized fake "Prystal" (aka "applejuice" or "cherryjuice") bangles. Many of these are turning up at flea markets / antique fairs. They are the rounded, fat domed bangles, not a shape used during the vintage bakelite days. HINT - look closely under a loop, and you will see impurities in the "Prystal". [Translucent Bakelite is referred to as Prystal].
Watch out! It appears that the fakers are getting smarter, some fakelite is starting to appear with "patina", the yellowish aging that occurs naturally over time with vintage bakelite. It has been seen in green marbling color (what we call creamed spinach). Be careful out there!
Apple juice Stardust - they took one of my favorite types of bakelite and have tried to recreate it. Very bad copy of the original, so you probably won't fall for it. Watch for it in thick bracelets.
Horse Head Pin - here is an example of a glut in the market. I have seen these everywhere, from eBay, flea markets, and respectable, legit dealers. Watch out for a smooth, somewhat matte surface, and eerie yellow expressionless eyes (no personality). There is also a version out there with the horse head and 3 dangling charms - don't fall for it!
Martha Sleeper Charm Bracelet. I am very saddened to report finding these. Watch out for the "Lucky Bracelet" - the ones with the black cat, 8 ball, and "lucky 13" charms attached. The pristine condition, low price ($500) and lack of patina gives this away. An original would sell for much more, and some paint loss and reasonable wear would be expected.
Kentucky Derby Souvenir. I recently saw a laughable example of fakelite - not so funny was the fact that it was in a very reputable antiques mall. Eventually it will probably end up in the hands of a novice bakelite collector, who will become very discouraged once she discovers she was "had". It is a postcard with a full color vintage looking drawing of a horse and jockey, with the words "Souvenir of the Kentucky Derby 1928". There was a very crudely carved Catalan-like horse head pin attached, with the words "Genuine Bakelite Pin". The fakelite alarms went off all around me!
Hinged Bracelets are being reproduced. Recently at an antiques market I saw an "apple juice" hinged bracelet that was very crude. Familiarize yourself with the vintage hardware used on bracelet hinges, pin backs, and attachment screws. Today's fakelite hardware is a bit different. You will also notice that sometimes the fakelite hardware is distressed, trying to make it look older. The trouble with that is most of my vintage bakelite hinges have held up rather nicely over time. I would be more suspicious of a rusty hinge than a shiny one!
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