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Jewellery Glossary: Celluloid

Posted on 07/01/2013

I have been fascinated by celluloid since my Great Uncle Harry gave me my first piece when I was a child. It was delicate, lace like and heart shaped and I have kept it always. My personal collection now includes; celluloid buckles, brooches, bangles and fans to name just a few.  Those who know me are used to seeing me with at least one bangle permanently on my wrist.

A Little History: 

Celluloid (cellulose nitrate) is considered to be the first thermoplastic, which can be moulded while it is hot and hardens as it cools. It is made from nitric acid, cellulose and camphor. It was highly flammable and quickly decomposed. It was invented by American John W. Hyatt in 1868 as an Ivory substitute. Imitation Ivory celluloid is sometimes referred to as “French Ivory” or “Ivorine” two of its trademarked names.

The first examples of celluloid jewellery were made in 1875 by the Celluloid Novelty Company in Newark, New York. They included traditional Victorian Leit motifs which were very realistically moulded such as; cameos, black celluloid mourning jewellery, realistically modelled animals and hands holding fans or roses.

Buying Celluloid Bangles:

A lot of the celluloid you will encounter comes from Japan, who became the market leaders in its production. Japanese celluloid has a slightly waxy appearance and is intricately detailed incorporating recurring motifs of flowers such as Chrysanthemums, Roses, Daises and Peonies.

Each bangle is made out of strips of moulded plastic, which was then hand finished, achieving the look of carved Ivory or Coral. Some of these pieces were then delicately hand painted or glazed with a pearlescent coating.

When you look at a celluloid bangle you can tell its age by looking for the join. In the earlier examples from the 1930’s the join is always vertical and often a little messy where the strip of plastic has been joined end to end. In later 1950’s examples the join is horizontal and the moulding is less detailed.


These wonderful bangles produced in Japan during the 1930’s are often marked Japan or Foreign. They were made in large numbers for export to America. Later pieces marked “Occupied Japan” were made for the export market from 1945 – 1952. The sale of these items helped Japan recover their economy after WWII.

Cleaning Celluloid:

You can clean your lovely celluloid jewellery with an old soft toothbrush either dry or with a little warm water. Remember to gently dry your jewellery after you have cleaned it and store it away from direct sunlight. Take extra care with hand painted celluloid items. It’s important to remember celluloid is affected by heat and solvents so never immerse it in hot water or spray it with perfume which can cause discolouration.

Want to know more?

If you would like to learn more about celluloid then this is an excellent book, Celluloid Collectors Reference and Value Guide by Keith Lauer & Julie Robinson.

  You can see all the stunning Celluloid we currently have available to buy here

 Photographs: Samantha Jones Photography



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Kirsty Mitchell’s “Wonderland”

Posted on 10/10/2012

After reading about Kirsty Mitchell’s “Wonderland” series online, I rushed to the SW1 Gallery in Victoria to catch the last day of her exhibition and was lucky enough to talk to Kirsty herself. I can honestly say I have never been so moved by an exhibition in my whole life.

“The Ghost Swift”

On display were a selection of Kirsty’s breathtakingly beautiful images and some of the original costumes used in the creation of the photographs. The images and costumes are part of a much larger project which began in 2009 and contains over 60 images. “Wonderland” is inspired by and dedicated to Kirsty’s Mother, Maureen, who sadly passed away in November 2008. Maureen was an English teacher for 30 years and Kirsty began to create “an unexplained storybook without words, dedicated to her.”

For me “Wonderland” brings together some of the best and most beautiful things in life, the natural beauty of the world around us, the hidden magic in the pages of poetry and fairy tales and the romance of the Pre Raphaelites. As Kirsty describes it, it was “the result of many things, book illustrations, poems, memories of paintings mixed with blurred recollections of fairytale queens.”

“The White Queen”

Even more inspiring is the fact that “Wonderland” was created on shoestring budget, in evenings and weekends whilst Kirsty and make up artist Elbie Van Eeden both worked full time jobs. Nothing you see in these images has been created in Photoshop, which meant that some of these images took months to set up. Trying to achieve the perfect light and waiting for the desired wild flowers to be in bloom again.

“Gammelyn’s Daughter, A Waking Dream”

In Dec 2011 Kirsty left her 10 year career behind her to dedicate her time fully to the “Wonderland” series, to plan the exhibition and the book to accompany it. In 2013 Kirsty hopes to bring everything together; all the images from the project, behind the scenes photographs and the costumes, with an accompanying book to complete the story of her journey. I can’t wait!

“The Distant Pull of Remembrance”

If you can’t wait until next year to see Kirsty’s work, a selection of images from the “Wonderland” series is currently on display at Quaglino’s in London until November 14th.

Photography: Kirsty Mitchell, Make up: Elbie Van Eeden.

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Canterbury Love : Frocks n Stock

Posted on 03/10/2012

I was really excited when I first heard about Frocks n Stock, The Pilgrims Hospice all Vintage, Designer Retro charity shop in Margate. So of course I went to investigate straight away. I imagine my delight when I found out that the hospice would be opening another Frocks n Stock, on my doorstep in Canterbury.

The new shop is wonderful, its large, light and bright and has been meticulous organized and beautifully arranged to show off all the fabulous treasures you can find there. My favourite spot in the shop has got to be the haberdashery room, a whole room filled with vintage fabrics, buttons and sewing paraphernalia!

The Pilgrims hospice is a Kent based charity, so the money spent in the shop goes back into helping the local community. Also 80p out of every £1 spent in the shop goes directly to patient care at the Hospice, so you know exactly where you money is going.

Here are a few photos of my favourite goodies from the shop. They have everything from typewriters to teddies, including a great selection of hard to find menswear, fantastic old magazines, and some stunning suitcases.

Frocks n Stock: 19 The Burgate, Canterbury, CT1 2HG.

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