Bakelite napkin rings

By Rosanna Holmes,
10th September 2009 - 14:07

Invented in 1907 by Leo Hendrik Baekeland, Bakelite was something of a wonder plastic. Heat resistant, easy to carve and cheap to produce, it was dubbed the ‘material of a thousand uses’ and, by the 1930s, was being pressed into service to make everything from radios and clocks to jewellery and even, as seen here, animal-shaped napkin rings.

Bright red is the most desirable colour and those on wheels (napkin ring-racing, anyone?) are rarer than other types.

‘All sorts of animals were made,’ says dealer Sue Poultney of Scarab Antiques. ‘I’ve seen angel fish, squirrels, ducks, a sit-up-and-beg Scottie dog and even a very unusual rocking horse on rockers.’

Sadly though, considering her evocative trading name, she’s never seen a beetle.

 
 
 
Napkin rings without wheels, £42 each; with wheels, £69 each, all Scarab Antiques. 
 
 
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