How to tell if it is Bakelite

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Did you know  the bakelite process was first made by Dr. Leo Baekeland  in 1909.

You just bought a great item and you think it is bakelite but you are not sure. There are several ways to test the item.

If your sense of smell is good, rub the item with your thumb until it burns. Do you smell formaldehyde? If you do, you have a bakelite piece in your hand. But, beware not smelling it does not always mean its not bakelite. You could have a bad smeller or not be doing it correctly.

Try the Formula 409 test or use Dow Bathroom cleaner. Use a damp a cotton swab. Rub it with 409 and rub it gently on the inside of the item being tested. If it's Bakelite, the swab will turn yellow. However, if it is lacquered it may not turn yellow. Black bakelite may also fail this test.

Simichrome Polish is a non-abrasive cream used to clean metals and is by far the best method to use for bakelite. You can also use it to test Bakelite for authenticity and it will clean the piece nicely making it shine. Sparingly apply to a soft cloth and gently rub a small spot on the inside or back of the item being tested. If it's Bakelite, the cloth should turn yellow with ease. If a piece is laquered, it may test negative. Black Bakelite pieces often fail this test as well. Use the other tests above to confirm authenticity if a piece you suspect to be Bakelite fails with Simichrome.

Notes: Please be careful before doing any of these tests. Rubbing too hard with chemicals can damage the piece. Wash chemicals with warm water immediately after testing.

Do NOT use the hot pin (heating a pin and touching the bakelite) method. This can damage the bakelite.

Do NOT use scrubbing bubbles as it can strip the finish and ruin your gorgeous bakelite piece.

Once you note an item is bakelite be aware of its weight, its feel its sound. This will help you know in the future that you actually have bakelite and not plastic in your hands.


Celluloid items are thinner and lighter and can be brittle. They often crack during high temperatures. Some are flammable and can smell like vinegar or old camphor. Celluloid jewelry can be damaged by moisture, high temperatures and chemicals. It should be stored in a specific environment to prevent cracking or dulling.

IF this guide helped you understand bakelite please give me a helpful check.

Thanks and happy hunting!!



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