Necklace with 8 Bakelite cherries on red celluloid chain and 5 green celluloid leaves. Extensive wear to plastic coating of cherry stems and cracks and wear to red jump rings attaching cherries to chain. Bakelite bow pin with 7 marbled Bakelite cherries. Wear to plastic coating on stems. Glue residue around stem hole on back of bow. Realized auction price of $575 in 2004.
Bakelite |ˈbāk(ə)ˌlīt| noun trademark - an early form of brittle plastic, made from formaldehyde and phenol. Designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society in recognition of its significance as the world’s first synthetic plastic.
ORIGIN early 20th cent.: named after Leo H. Baekeland (1863–1944), the Belgian-born American chemist who invented it, + -ite.
One of the first plastics made from synthetic components, Bakelite was used in electrical insulators, radio casings, kitchenware, jewelry, and children’s toys.
And it sounds really good when it clunks together. And the colors are deep and rich and take on a warm hue as they age. Over time, many pieces of Bakelite jewelry broke or were thrown away. Those that remain are collectible, and can run into 100s of dollars. There are companies who still manufacture Bakelite-type plastic jewelry (the Retrolite line from Classic Hardware, for instance) but the manufacturing process is labor-intensive and the jewelry can still seem expensive for “just plastic.”
Red Bakelite cherries and green celluloid leaves dangle from a black celluloid chain. A red Bakelite cherry dangles from screw-back earrings. In excellent condition with some wear to the plastic coating on the stems. Ca.1940. $325 via Lavender Gardens at RubyLane
One of the more collectible lines of Bakelite jewelry is a collection that may or may not have been called Cherries Jubilee, originally produced in the 1940s. (I can’t find documentation to support the nomenclature, but I’m not a professional researcher.) If you search online for the necklace in this line, you’ll find many examples in a wide price range, from original sets to reproductions. While some are worth every penny and some bear an inflated “market value,” they’re all out of my pathetic little price range. So, it looks like it’s time once again to Get Crafty!
I’d had the vague mental plan to recreate my own version of this necklace for a Very Long Time. It wasn’t until I was looking for a bit of chain in order to carry out a clever earring storage trick I’d seen on Pinterest that I realized I could accomplish both projects with one purchase. So, while I was at it, I picked up some plastic beads, a packet of head pins, and some filagree bead caps.
white chain, $1.99
lucite crackle beads $1.99
lucite leaf beads $1.99
4in head pins $1.49
7mm bead caps $1.49
7mm jump rings (in my stash)
toggle clasp (in my stash)
Total Cost: $9
Parts Left Over: many bits, I’ll make matching earrings at the very least.
Reproduction necklace hand sculpted by artist Melody O’Beau, $50 (available with or without ladybugs)
This was going to be more of a tutorial, but here’s the thing: if you actually give enough of a whit about making jewelry to have the proper tool for making loops on head pins, then you can already figure out how to put this together. If, however, you love it so much that you need to run out and buy round-nose micro pliers just to make this necklace, comment below and I’ll break down all of the steps for you.
Now, my version contains more metal parts than the original (head pin “stems,” bead caps, chain) and the plastic bits don’t even pretend to look like Bakelite, but I was going for the general effect, not a precise reproduction. If I wanted a “real deal” look, I’d buy the hand-made version (and matching pin while I’m at it) from Melody O’Beau because she deserves to get paid for all of the work and care she puts into hers.
And fini! My version will work just fine, for now.
More vintage necklaces from around the ’net (clicking on any of the photos with prices will take you directly to that item’s sale page):
Multiple plastic cherries with green celluloid leaves on a green celluloid link chain in a gold-tone setting. This set is in excellent condition. $200.00 via JewelDiva.com
Bakelite Cherries Necklace features red cherries with highly etched leaves and a red link chain. This necklace is in excellent condition! $850.00 via JewelDiva.com
BAKELITE red carved cherries necklace with green plastic leaves on a red coated chain. There is slight wear on the stems. $395.00 via morninggloryjewelry.com
Excellent vintage condition with everything intact. Moderate stem wear. $399 from 3438nancy on Etsy
BURGUNDY BLACK AND GREEN FRENCH BAKELITE NECKLACE WITH DANGLING CHERRY FRUITS. CARVED DETAILS ON FRUITS AND LEAVES.
EXCELLENT CONDITION AND TOP QUALITY. $163.20 via French-Bakelite.com
Big Fat Resin Cherries ‘Bakelite’ Cherry Necklace, $110.00 via antiquesartcollectibles.com
Apple juice Bakelite cherries with green leaves on double strand of celluloid links. $184 via MichellesVintageJewelry.com
Circa 1930s or 1940s. The cherries are translucent red Bakelite and the chain and leaves look like celluloid. The green stems look like they were replaced over the years. All is in very good condition. $345 via Best Jewelry Stores