Friday, February 7, 2014

The Dreaded "F" Word - Fakelite!

In the last 4 years I have been collecting Bakelite, I been duped a couple of times with "fakelite" posing as Bakelite. One of those purchases took place in an antique mall in South Florida.  I bought a heavy, smooth rootbeer bangle that was listed and priced as Bakelite but it was in fact, fake. I was just starting to collect and still unaware of how to properly tell if a piece was real or not.

What is Fakelite? Fakelite is imitation Bakelite that can have the same look, weight, feel, detailing, colors, marbling, and carving style as real, authentic Bakelite pieces. I have heard from others that a few fakelite pieces can even smell like Bakelite!

I wanted to add pictures showing examples of fakelite but I do not want to get in trouble. Most of the Fakelite I encounter has been found on Etsy and eBay and if I post someone's listing pictures, I may find myself in hot water.

So here are some pictures of REAL Bakelite from my collection to familiarize yourself:

Notice the carvings are basic, not super crazy detailed? See the marbling on the end-of-day pieces? See the colors?

Sadly, I have been finding A LOT of fakelite on Etsy recently.  The fakelite typically in question is usually a bangle with overly ornate carvings and the colors are too marbled.  The bangles are too thick, way too heavy, and the colors are odd. A while back, I saw a bangle that went from red, yellow to green! So fake! What really tips me off when a bangle is fake is the type of carving. I have seen carved dolphins with big bubbles and sea life!

Real Bakelite usually has more simple carvings. You may find real pieces with cut-outs, rhinestones, round grooves that encircle an entire bangle (like a record), leaves, rose petals, etc. But dolphins? FAKE!!!

What burns my biscuits about fakelite is that some sellers will claim a piece passed all the tests (friction, 409, hot water, simichrome, etc) and they will charge Bakelite prices. However, if a piece is listed as 'fakelite' and the price reflects that, then great! I may even buy it if it's cute! But when fakelite is passed off as actual Bakelite, that is wrong!

I recently found a few links for helping distinguish fakelite from Bakelite:

And here is a fabulous post from 2012 by amazing vintage blogger, Brittany, of Va-Voom Vintage:

I wrote this post in the hopes of helping others who may be in the infant stages of starting their own Bakelite collections.  If I can give just one bit of advice, I would suggest looking for Bakelite in person especially before venturing online to buy. Many antique malls, antique stores, car boot sales, charity shops, and swap meets will have a few bits of authentic Bakelite for sale. Familiarize yourself with the colors, the smell (do a friction test with your fingers and then smell your fingers), the weight, the sound (Bakelite should have a heavy clunk not a light "tink tink"), marbling, and the carvings. Also, the inside of a real bangle or the back of earrings, brooches, etc will be seamless. There will be no pour marks or branding.  The surface may have a patina or age spots. Learn the proper characteristics so when you shop online or visit the antique mall, you will have a better determination of what to buy and what to avoid.


  1. Great article! I have a few Bakelite earrings and a necklace in my collection. I have bought and sold a couple of bangle but they are usually to small for me. I have wide palms so I need to either buy clampers or a stretch bracelet. I've also seen carved/molded Lucite bangles being sold as Bakelite. Some people will do anything to make a buck. Or a couple hundred as Bakelite goes.

    1. Thank you for your comments! I have seen so many beautiful Bakelite clampers! The real ones can be pricey. But most Bakelite is these days. I hear you about lucite sometimes being passed off as Bakelite. That is what happened to me. The piece was a root beer swirl that was touted as Bakelite. Brittany of Va-Voom Vintage did a great post about distinguishing between real root beer and fake Bakelite and mine was definitely a fake. I was bummed.

  2. Very good of you to post this to help the ladies out. I thought it was great recently when I was at the antiques faire here in Alameda and my favorite lady to buy from was showing people what fakelite looked and felt like. She had it for sale but was very clear about what it was.

    Oooo...I remember seeing that necklace in one of your previous posts. Sooooo lovely!!!

    1. Thanks!!! I want to help others because there are so many fakes out there! If you shell out big bucks, your investment should be the real deal!

      That is awesome that a seller was doing a real live demo! I wish other sellers would do that! If you have fakes, just disclose them as such and people on a budget or others just looking for fun pieces may buy!

      I love my cherries necklace! It is made with real red Bakelite disks and modern plastic components. I would love to get a solid Bakelite piece but I need to save up!

  3. Very interesting! I only have 2 bangles, but I would like more. Thanks for the information! I love your blog and came across it when looking for reviews for WT sarong dresses. I decided to read your blog from the very beginning and it didn't disappoint!