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The History of Lucite in Costume Jewelry - and in SUMARIS Necklaces

The History of Lucite in Costume Jewelry - and in SUMARIS Necklaces

January 06, 2018

Today, “lucite” has become a catch-all name for all forms of acrylic. It’s like the “Q-tip” to cotton swabs or the “Kleenex” to tissues. As a result, many people aren’t aware that Lucite is actually a branded term that refers to a very specific acrylic product developed by chemists at DuPont in 1936. The name was trademarked a year later.

At the time, DuPont was competing with Rohm & Hass to develop new materials for military applications. Lucite replaced glass in World War II Spitfire Fighter Plane canopies, and Rohm & Hass' Plexiglass, a virtually indestructible material, was also adopted by the military.

However, DuPont decided to do something a little unexpected: they licensed Lucite to a few costume jewelry manufacturers. Lucite made sense for the jewelry industry because it’s a strong, lightweight, water resistant, and chemically-stable material. Plastics like Bakelite simply couldn’t handle daily wear the same way Lucite could. Furthermore, Lucite has great design potential; in its natural state, it’s transparent, but it’s easy to dye in varying opacities. Lucite can even be carved!

Did you know Trifari was one of the first costume jewelry designers to experiment with Lucite in designs? They used Lucite to mimic gemstone cabochons and first put them in animal-shaped brooches as the “bellies” of animals. According to this article in Collector’s Weekly, the “Jelly Belly” pin is one of the most recognizable examples of costume jewelry. You can see a number of beautiful Jelly Belly pins here.

In the 1950s, Lucite even found its way into other accessories like designer handbags. Click here to see amazing photos of celebrities Marilyn Monroe, Gena Rowland, and more holding Lucite handbags. Marilyn even had a pair of Lucite heels!

By the 1970s, Lucite jewelry started declining in popularity. However, nearly all fashion trends come back in style. For example, acrylic bangles were all the rage in the 1980s. And today, lovers of vintage still collect original Lucite jewelry. As evidenced by many of her designs, Susan loves incorporating Lucite into her wearable art.

We’d love to share three examples of how Lucite is used in SUMARIS jewelry:

NIGHT BOUQUET

The NIGHT BOUQUET features a vintage brooch with a beautiful and mysterious bouquet of black flowers accented with crystals. The Lucite components in this piece are especially notable and stunning. How memorable would this necklace be against a basic black dress?

FLUTTER-BY HONEY

Keep spring eternally close to your heart with the FLUTTER-BY HONEY necklace, which features a large green-and-orange Czech crystal butterfly brooch; vintage crystal beads; and amber-colored, translucent Lucite beads. As you can see, Lucite pairs effortlessly with crystal.

VERSAILLES

Did you know the Palace of Versailles in France is considered one of the greatest achievements in 17th century French art? Similarly, the VERSAILLES necklace is an achievement in contemporary wearable art. A mix of luxe neutral tones like bronze, gold, and white, this necklace features a vintage gold-tone brooch, Czech glass beads, and egg-shaped Lucite beads. We love the delicate gold detailing!

Hopefully, this blog post inspired you to appreciate Lucite more than before. Does your accessories collection currently include any Lucite?



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