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What Is a Lucite® Necklace?

B. Turner
B. Turner

A Lucite® necklace is a type of costume jewelry made from a hard plastic resin. Unlike traditional plastics, this resin has thermoset properties, which means it can't be melted down and reformed. Throughout history, a Lucite® necklace may also be known as a Bakelite® or polycarbonate necklace, though these materials feature a slightly different structure from true Lucite®. This term may refer to a necklace made entirely from Lucite® beads, or a standard metal chain with a single Lucite® charm. While many people associate Lucite® necklaces with a classic clear appearance, this material also comes in a wide variety of colors and textures.

Lucite® was first developed in 1937 by the DuPont Chemical Company. This thermoplastic was in high demand during World War II, where it was used to make aircraft windows and other vital equipment. Throughout the early 1940s and 50s, manufacturers also began using this material to make jewelry. This time period represents the height of the Lucite® necklace craze, when women flocked to these necklaces because of their low cost and design versatility compared to traditional metal jewelry. Though the popularity of Lucite® jewelry died out by the 1960s, some buyers still appreciate this material for its distinct vintage style.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

The most common type of Lucite® necklace consists of clear beads that are often fairly large. Manufacturers also produced Lucite® beads in many solid colors, including large chunky designs and small, pearl-like strands. Throughout history and today, these solid beads have been used to imitate more expensive materials like turquoise and onyx. Special moonglow beads consist of colored plastic that appears to glow from within, giving them a unique appearance.

A Lucite® necklace may also consist of special marbled beads designed to resemble stone or granite. These beads or charms may also be embedded with glitter, or even adorned with rhinestones or shells. By mixing various colors together, manufacturers can also create a confetti or speckled appearance for these beads.

These necklaces allow women to expand their jewelry collections at a very low cost compared to other types of jewelry materials. They also offer a great deal of variety, as well as a style that can appear either vintage or modern, depending on the design. Buyers should be aware, however, that Lucite® is highly vulnerable to scratches, and may yellow as it ages. Once damaged, this jewelry can be difficult to impossible to clean, and may have to be replaced instead.

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