product review Vintage

Brighter Bakelite

9:01 PMDollie DeVille

Last month I was contacted by Brighter Bakelite to do a review on their bakelite restoration business. Brighter Bakelite restores vintage bakelite to its original sheen and color. A lot of Bakelite has tarnished over the years and many of the rare and striking colors of the past are now covered in layers of soil, nicotine and patina. Jesse of Brighter Bakelite has developed a restoration system that involves sanding and polishing the very outermost layer of the bakelite to reveal the original color. 

I was always under the impression that bakelite only came in certain colors, like pea green, butterscotch, browns, reds and oranges. I figured that it couldn't be made in other colors or they were just not popular in that era. I am not alone in thinking that either, as I have been told by other people that bakelite was not made in white, for example, so any white bangle couldn't be real bakelite. When I met Julie of FabGabs (Jesse's girlfriend and business partner) in  2010, she was wearing the most beautiful violet bakelite bracelet I had ever seen. I was stunned and struck up a conversation about it with her. This is when I first learned about the polishing technique she was researching and how she had a friend of hers polish her bangle and it turned out to be lavender under the patina. Years later her and Jesse have turned it into a very successful business and Brighter Bakelite was born! 

When they first started the business they were offering a service where people could send in their tarnished and discolored bakelite to be restored for a small fee. After a short amount of time they stopped offering that service and now only offer the restored pieces for purchase on their Etsy page. Jesse did accept some of my bakelite bangles to be restored in order for me to review them. I was happy with the current colors in my collection but wanted to add a few more, so using their pointers I went online and bought some low priced oxidized bangles that we thought to be the colors I was looking for. I also found one in my collection that didn't get worn much because it was such an odd color- black with dark green running throughout it. 

These are the three bangles that I sent to Brighter Bakelite. 



After a week or two they came back. They were packaged really well, on a foam roll, wrapped in bubble wrap and surrounded in peanuts. 

Ta-Da! Look at that difference! I was ecstatic and couldn't believe how much they changed. They were so shinny too! 

This one was a much brighter orange before and I was hoping it would be pink or peach after. It's a much lighter peachy/pinky orange now, almost like a coral. You can see the color a little better in the photo above, because it was taken in the day light. This has been my favorite color this summer for nail polish and lipstick. So I am so happy to have a bangle this color. 

It's hard to tell in this photo, but a little bit more true to color in the photo above. This one turned out to be the most beautiful semi-translucent navy blue with white marbling throughout. Brighter Bakelite leaves the inside unpolished so that it can still test positive with semichrome, as restored Bakelite won't react to semichrome because the test basically pulls the formaldehyde patina off. Once it is gone the semichrome has nothing to pull off. I hear they will still pass the rub test though. You can still see the yellowing on the inside of the bangle in the photo above and below.   

This bangle changed the most dramatically. I was really hoping for a light blue or teal since I didn't have that color in my collection.Who would have thought that most pea green bakelite is really blue under there? I am so happy to have this color now!

I am overjoyed about my new brighter bakelite, but recently I have heard some people are up in arms over bakelite restoration. Vintage restoration is definitely nothing new, people have been doing restoration in one form or another for quite a long time. I have a problem with people "restoring" things like Heywood Wakefield by sanding it and painting it white. With everything, there is a right and wrong way, and you get what you pay for. But Brighter Bakelite does it differently. They are avid vintage collectors who restore vintage bakelite to it's former glory in the most responsible way possible. They love vintage as much as we all do and just want to be able to enjoy the jewelry in the color it was originally intended to be. They have been developing this restoration system for years, this isn't something they just learned yesterday. 

They also sand as little of the bakelite off as possible. In order to really review this business properly I had my bangles weighed before and after restoration, that way I could show you all how much really comes off the bangle in this process. The largest bangle went from 1.3 oz to 1.2 oz, the navy bangle went from .7 to .6 and the small orange one went from .6 to .5. There is a difference yes, but I think a minimal price to pay for a completely different color. Because the color change happens because of the formaldehyde reacting to environmental exposure, the discoloration will happen again over time. No one knows for sure how long it takes, but I will report back if I notice anything. The color change occurred on these bangles over the last, what 70 years? So I am hoping it will be that long before they get to that point again. 

Some people prefer the patinaed colors of bakelite and some people like it to look exactly like it did originally. There is a lot of patinaed bakelite out there to buy if you like that look, and now thanks to Brighter Bakelite we also have the option to buy professional restored bakelite in the original colors. I don't recommend anyone try to restore their own bakelite as you can damage the piece or suffer from the release of formaldehyde or asbestos in the dust produced. For this reason I didn't go into detail about how the restoration is done, but instead offer the option of buying the professional restored bakelite directly from Brighter Bakelite. I love mine and will be buying some more just as soon as possible. 

Check out the brighter bakelite up for grabs on their Etsy shop and like them on facebook to keep up to date on all the new things being added. 

XOXO
Dollie


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5 comments

  1. Wow! I can't believe what a difference there is in the before and after photos. What a great idea.

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  2. The restored bracelets are so pretty! I don't understand people that get mad over what other people do with their own belongings, but what can you do?

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  3. I'm desperately after blue Bakelite and I just *know* I already have some lying in underneath my other colors! I can see both sides of For and Against on this issue. As with anything I think it's a vintage conscience situation....just because it's your view doesn't mean it's the right one. Do you know how much they charge per bangle?

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  4. Wow, my jaw dropped when I saw the teal, most interesting and I will check out the shop - thanks Dollie!

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  5. Very interesting blog, looking forward to more wonderful! swarovski crystal beads

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