What Is Celluloid? A Jewelry Guide

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Unlike the harder, more resilient Bakelite or Catalin (two other collectible old plastics), Celluloid is flammable, sensitive to heat and easily damaged.

Celluloid was first invented in the late 19th century and is made of chemical compounds and camphor. It was originally invented to make billiard balls, which were traditionally made of precious ivory. There were several inventors who unsuccessfully attempted to make this type of plastic. But Alexander Parkes is legally credited with inventing the process by which Celluloid is made.

Frequently, Celluloid jewelry comes in ivory, black or coral colors that appear as a molded array of small flowers. There are other motifs and designs. I have also seen Bakelite and Celluloid in the same piece of jewelry.

Celluloid bangle bracelets are frequently seen on the antique and collectibles market, normally with the aforementioned molded floral design. It isn't easy to find these items in pristine condition. I have seen cracks and areas in bangles where the plastic is actually chemically breaking down.

Today, celluloid is still used to make guitar picks. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the material was used in a variety of items, including handles of utensils, buttons, pens, film etc.

Never expose celluloid items (or items you think may be made of celluloid) to heat or solvents. It could be dangerous to both you and your collectible.

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Happy Collecting,

Alloy Antiques


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