Karima Parry's
[Plastic Fantastic Logo]
Specializing in Bakelite, Celluloid, Lucite,
and other vintage plastic costume jewelry
from the 1920's to the 1960's

Email: karima@plasticfantastic.com

About Testing

NOTE:Testing information and methods have been updated!! (8/20/01)

Plastic Fantastic makes all efforts to correctly identify the type of plastic of each item offered for sale. To that end, all plastic sold by Plastic Fantastic is tested using both the "hot water" test, and with Formula 409. Pieces which exhibit the correct characteristic odor when warmed under hot water, which show clear evidence of oxidation and patina, and which leave a yellow residue when exposed to 409 are assumed to be genuine Bakelite, Catalin, or other vintage phenolic. They are grouped under the general category of "Bakelite", and are sold as such.

All plastics which either have a non-Bakelite odor when warmed under hot water, or which do not react to 409 are assumed to be Celluloid, Lucite, or one of a myriad of other plastics. These are grouped under the general category of "Other Plastics", and are sold as such. We no longer use Simichrome polish to test vintage plastics because it gives false positive results from time to time. This may be because Simichrome, unlike 409, contains abrasives which can prompt plastics which are not bakelite to give off a residue when rubbed with Simichrome. We feel that Simichrome polish is a superior product for polishing bakelite and other vintage plastis, but do not feel it is appropriate as a testing agent.


Hot Pin Testing is NOT RECOMMENDED to be used on vintage plastics. It permanently damages the piece with an unsightly blemish, and considerably reduces the value of the piece. Many dealers and collectors will not acquire or sell pieces which have been pinned. If the piece being tested is Celluloid, which is a highly flammable material, the piece could literally begin to burn, and you could be injured! There are better ways to confirm if a piece is Bakelite, and here's how: There are two tests that can be used to confirm if a piece is Bakelite. They are the HOT WATER test, and the 409 test.


Provided that the piece does not incorporate string, wood, hand painted decoration, or other non-plastic decorative materials; hold the edge of the piece under HOT running tap water for up to 30 seconds and then smell it. Bakelite has a characteristic Phenol or fresh shellac odor. No odor probably means that the piece is Lucite.


Dow Bathroom Cleaner USED TO BE widely used to test vintage plastics. However, it is very caustic and can destroy the shiney finish on the area of the piece being tested. THEREFORE WE STRONGLY DISCOURAGE THE FURTHER USE OF THIS PRODUCT TO TEST VINTAGE PLASTICS.


Plastic Fantastic no longer tests vintage plastic jewelry with Scrubbing Bubbles. Instead, I have discovered that Formula 409 all-purpose cleaner is a better testing agent. Test on a small area, preferably on the reverse of a pin or the inside of a bracelet. put a small amount of 409 on a swab and rub it on the test area for a few seconds. if the swab develops a yellowish residue no matter what color the plastic is, then it is likely that the piece is bakelite. wash the test area immediately afterwards with mild dishwashing soap and warm water and towel dry immediately afterward. 409 is superior for testing because unlike Scrubbing Bubbles, it does NOT strip the finish.


Simichrome Polish is available at your local hardware store. It is expensive, and worth it. although plastic fantastic no longer recommends it's use for testing plastics, it is a superior Bakelite polishing product, and it does a dandy job on silver and other metals too.When polished with Simichrome, Bakelite will often leave a yellow residue on the cloth, no matter what color the Bakelite is.


Unfortunately, many pieces of Bakelite are showing up with their finish stripped by over enthusiasatic chemical testing. These pieces are dull and unattractive , and need to be restored. The best product to use to restore these pieces is Simichrome Polish. I have also had good results with Turtle Wax Clear Coat. Simichrome produces a hard shiny finish, whereas the Turtle Wax finish is less brilliant. It may take several applications and polishings with the product of your choice to restore a stripped finish. (hint: use a swab to work on that nasty cloudy residue that is present in carved areas on stripped pieces.)


Some pieces which are Bakelite will not pass some or all of these tests. They include pieces which are very dirty, pieces which have previously had their finish stripped with chemical test agents such as Scrubbing Bubbles, some reds, many blacks, pieces which have resin washed coating, pieces which have been covered with plastics sealant compounds, pieces which have been sanded, and newly re-worked pieces made from Bakelite and freshly polished.

In addition, some pieces which are not bakelite will pass some of these tests. This is why it is very important to test with several methods, including hot water and 409, and to also look for evidence of oxidation and patina. As bakelite prices have risen, Fakelite has appeared on the market from several sources including New Jersey and Taiwan. Although some of the people who sell Fakelite insist that it passes chemical testing, none of it successfully passes hot water testing. Fakelite smells "wrong" (unlike bakelite) when tested with hot water.

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