Tuesday, February 2, 2016
The origins of early 20th Century plastics began with Bakelite In 1907. That's the year a Belgian chemist named Leo Baekeland invented Bakelite, though it took another decade before his formula became a household product that comprised everything from dominoes to kitchenware (to buttons). Between the years 1919 and 1942, Bakelite was the prevailing plastic. In 1927 the patents for Bakelite were acquired by the Catalin Corporation, which experimented with Leo Baekeland's original recipe, though most collectors of Bakelite don't differentiate between the Bakelite of pre-1927 and the Bakelite that technically became a brand of Catalin. By the 1940's, other plastics such as Lucite and Celluloid began to replace Bakelite since these cheaper brands were easier to mass produce. By the early and mid 1940's, Bakelite was gradually becoming a thing of the past.
Bakelite came in a dazzling range of colors and one of those lesser-known color variants was a form of transparent Bakelite known as Prystal. (I believe the idea behind the name was to tout Prystal Bakelite as a type of "Plastic Crystal," though that's just a guess on my part). Truth be told, I'm not too keen on Prystal Bakelite because it lacks the intensity of the solid colors, but I do have a few Prystal buttons that I hold onto for the sake of keeping my collection well-rounded. I think it's wise to never underestimate the importance of variety.