I feel very sorry for anyone who is only just getting into collecting vintage costume jewellery, especially plastics,  and who looks online to find genuine honest information.  It really is a minefield of wrong information out there.

Whilst double checking facts (for the second time) about older natural plastics (amber, horn and tortoiseshell)  I am stunned at the many websites who quote the same misinformation word for word.

I am told that this is because web site owners go out and copy any article they can find on their chosen subject and then add that text to their own site to somehow increase their web presence.  In this way, what may have started out as a genuine mistake by someone, becomes magnified again and again.

Today I was double checking information from reference books about tortoiseshell.  I should have stuck to the books, at least most of them are accurate.

Knowing full well that it is extremely difficult to tell horn from bone and either from tortoiseshell, fortunately I am lucky enough to know the basics.

One piece of mistaken information on an atomic scale was quoted my someone we shall call a ‘little miss american’.  She was expounding upon plastics, obviously to make her website bigger rather than from any urge to inform visitors of the truth.

She rambled on cutely about some vague early plastics and waffled on about John Hyatt and his invention of celluloid.   Then comes the usual trite warning “This is a highly dangerous matieral – an exposive!  So never ever stick it with a hot needel! (sic).”

But then – she started to tackle Bakelite.  I have to say I laughed out loud.   Anyone who ever read a reference book or even an educational based website knows that bakelite was first used as an insulator as it does not conduct electricity or heat!  Never! No exceptions!

The necklace shown above, the opaque brown and banana colour rounded oblong beads are made from one of the earliest European colours of bakelite.  You could touch a probe with ten zillion volts onto one, and it would just sit there, looking offended.  But it would NEVER melt, allow the needle to penetrate the material or smoke.

The absolute worst it could do is to leave a very light surface mark of a light purple.  It would only be seen on something like clear or transparent cherry amber bakelite, like the necklace shown below.
Cables carrying huge amounts of lethel electricity were insulated with this material.

This oh so helpful little lady, (who obviously thinks she does indeed know about early plastics), then went on to advise people to stick a ‘red hot needel (sic)’  into a part which wont be seen (to test the item as being geniune bakelite).

“The only thing will happen is that ‘the needel’ will leave a deep red or purple hole.  The smoke will be black and smell yukky, like strong chemicals”.

Yet someone else suggesting the dreaded ‘hot pin test’ which is probably the single biggest destroyer of many an antique item from celluloid to amber to tortoiseshell and back again.

Someone in the great www consortium should try their best to find a way to ‘police’ the web for facts which are just plain wrong!

It is different if someone is expressing their opinion, but when something is a basic fact and is either true or not true, then it is my firm belief there should be some kind of internet police.


If you are looking for volunteers on vintage costume jewellery, sign me up !