More on Plaskon and other early plastics from Trove:
Warwick Daily News, 31st December 1936.
The Telegraph, 16th June 1937.
The Herald (Melbourne) 16th October 1939.
Construction (Sydney) 7th January 1948.
Plaskon, and other early plastics:
Many old plastic buttons are described loosely, and inaccurately, as bakelite, but are actually Beetle, Catalin, Plaskon or Casein.
Bakelite, or polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride, was the first synthetic plastic. It was developed in 1907 by Dr Leo Baekeland working on a substitute for shellac, and patented in 1909. It was made from phenol and formaldehyde with added fillers such as wood or asbestos fibres. As a result, mainly dark, sombre colours were made. According to ‘An insight into Plastics’ by BTR Nylex Ltd., the plastics industry started in Australia around 1917 with buttons moulded from imported phenol-formaldehyde powder being among the first products manufactured. (Editor’s note: This was probably done by Berthold Herrman. See the General Plastics page.)
In 1925 the British Cyanides Company (whose trademark was a beetle) developed a thiourea-formaldehyde moulding powder which was marketed from 1928 as Beetle powder. In Australia, Duperite branded products, and others, were made from this imported powder. This type of plastic allowed the introduction of previously unavailable colours, and are mottled or marbled.
Plaskon was developed in 1931 by the Toledo Scale Company as a lighter material than metal to make their scales from. It was made from urea formaldehyde with cellulose as a filler, as was great for making white products.
In 1927 the American Catalin Corporation of New York City acquired the patents for Bakelite and developed Catalin plastic. Catalin is what most “Bakelite” jewellery is actually made of. It was also made from phenol-formaldehyde, but in a 2 stage process without the use of fillers. It was available in clear and solid colours, as well as light, bright options that were not possible with Bakelite. It oxidises over time so that clear and white would yellow.
Formaldehyde was also used, with casein protein from milk, to make Casein plastic. It was successfully made in England from 1914. (An earlier French/German version called Galalith was developed from 1899-1904.)
In The Telegraph(Brisbane) 1939-1940:
New finds: Embassy
Left to right: earliest to latest c. late 1950s-late 1960s.
Vintage advertising from 8th September, 1937 in the Telegraph (Brisbane):
and also …
I’m not sure about the black ??sheep buckle and button. The poor thing has legs, a tail, and a large round body but no ears! I don’t fancy a ‘Crab Claw Buckle’, either.
Vintage advertising in The Sun (Sydney) from the 1940s:
1950s Beutron Originals:
and details from adverts of the time:
Royal Motor Yacht Club by Stokes & Sons:
last year I saw a RMYC button by Kitchener online. Interestingly, the design was different, with the initials interrupting the anchor rather than flanking it as in this version. See http://www.ausbuttonhistory.com/?p=9517
I‘ve not paid much attention to cuff-links, but they are closely related to buttons. They fasten clothing and consist of two button-like objects joined by a link, or one mounted on a post or bar. They have been made of all the same materials as buttons, however, they are more often made by jewelers rather than in button factories.
Here are some more advertisements from the Australian Women’s Weekly:
Advertisement from a 1911 edition of the ‘Commonwealth Jeweller and Watchmaker’: Aren’t they lovely! Brothers Richard and Thomas Willis arrived in Melbourne in 1858 and set up as importers and wholesalers, later extending to manufacturing, of jewellery. Richard left the partnership, with the firm becoming T. Willis & co in 1875, changing to Willis & Sons in 1904. From 1931 they stopped manufacturing and reverted to importing. The firm was still going in 1951.
For images of their beautiful jewellery: