Early Plastics : Identifying Lucite

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Lucite was a popular early form of plastic that is still used today.  While transparent in its natural state, lucite can be dyed many colors, molded and imbedded, so comes in a wide and sometimes wild variety of colors and looks.  It is found transparent to opaque.  In vintage times, it was used to make everything from plastic toys to jewelry.  Colorful versions of jewelry are often mistaken for catalin plastic which could also be made in many colors and textures.

Identifying antique plastic:

Lucite has a slick feel and is fairly light in weight. It is lighter than catalin.

If you put it under hot water, rub it vigorously or poke a hot pin into it it will have no smell. Catalin, bakelite and celluloid have chemical smells and casein smells like burnt milk.

If it’s transparent or transparent with objects embedded in it (plastic pieces, flowers, coins, etc) it’s lucite.

The following are examples the various styles of lucite.

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While naturally clear, lucite can be dyed and molded

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moonglow lucite has a unique glow-from-within quality. Used for jewelry.

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transparent, molded bracelet

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The ever popular confetti lucite, with confetti or shavings embedded within the plastic.

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confetti lucite button

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transparent lucite with embedded plant piece

granite lucite with embedded material to give a granite or marble-like look.

granite lucite with embedded material to give a granite or marble-like look.

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