Word of the Week: Simichrome

Before I get into the post for today, I just want to direct your attention to an interview I did with my friend Julie Glover. She has a series of posts called Amazing Words Wednesday where  she picks a topic about the English language and discusses it. Sometimes they make you laugh and sometimes they make you think! Today, she interviewed me about our Word of the Week posts and how antiques and collectibles have a language all their own. She had some really great questions, so please do me a favor and pop on over to her blog to check it out!

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Today we are going to be talking about this:

Simichrome is a polishing paste that you can use to test an item to see if it is Bakelite. I’m not going to do a WotW post on what Bakelite is because Black Dahlia did one that I certainly won’t be able to top.

You can use Simichrome to polish metal, but we most often use it to test Bakelite. You simply clean the surface of whatever it is you want to test, take a paper towel with some Simichome on it, and rub it on the item. The paste is pink, but if your item is Bakelite it’ll turn it a brownish-yellow color.

There are other ways to test Bakelite, but some of them can be detrimental to the piece or not particularly effective. Just note that this isn’t a perfect process, even if you use Simichrome. It won’t work on some black pieces, and sometimes if your piece is dirty it can discolor the pink of the paste.

This is still the preferred way to test for Bakelite, though. And I find it kind of fun!

This is what we tested. The handles are made of Bakelite.

This is the color of the paste when it comes straight from the tube. It’s light pink in color.

This is what the paste will look like if your item is NOT Bakelite. (It won’t change color.)

This is the brownish color the paste turns that indicates the item is Bakelite.

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2 thoughts on “Word of the Week: Simichrome

  1. Fine Lines says:

    Great idea to actually show the process in photos – especially for those of us who are visually-inclined. My question, though, is how does one know that the cream isn’t merely removing decades of say, cigarette smoke residue which is that yellowy brownish color? Often I see earrings listed declaring they are Bakelite when (to me) they may not be so. Thanks for looking at my comment. Now, I’m off to read your other blog posts since I’ve just found you.
    DD@Phila.

    • You’re welcome! I’m definitely a visual learner too, so I understand how helpful lots of pictures can be. The trick with testing for Bakelite is to clean the object as thoroughly as possible. Once you’re certain it’s clean, then you can test it with Simichrome. There are other ways you can double check that something is Bakelite, but they can be damaging or unreliable. You’ll also get a sense of whether or not the color is right the more times you do this. Sometimes I even test the same spot more than once, just in case.

      Glad you like the blog – please don’t hesitate to ask anymore questions!

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