In the spotlight: Bakelite animal napkin rings

If meals resemble feeding time at the zoo, these Bakelite animal napkin rings could be just the ticket

Bakelite animal napkin rings in orange

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.

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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.

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