Catalin is a brand name for a thermosetting polymer popular in the 1930s. Developed when the American Catalin Corporation took over the patents for Bakelite in 1927, Catalin is a cast phenolic, which can be worked with files, grinders and cutters and polishes to a fine sheen. Chemically, it is a phenol formaldehyde resin. Catalin has a different manufacturing process (two-stage process) than do other types of Bakelite resins (without using fillers such as sawdust or carbon black). Catalin is transparent, near colorless, rather than opaque. Unlike other bakelite phenolics, it can be dyed bright colors or even marbled. This fact has made Catalin more popular than other types of Bakelite. In the 1930s-1950s, it quickly replaced most plastic consumer goods.
Catalin is heavy, quite greasy in feel, and as hard as brass. It is heat resistant and does not soften under boiling water. Like Bakelite, it gives off a distinctive phenolic odour when heated and can be tested using Simichrome, which turns from pink to yellow. Due to oxidation, older Catalin items darken in color with white fading to yellow. This caused some very interesting effects when radio cabinets were made from Catalin. Catalin radios were often made in stylish Art Deco designs and are sought after by collectors.
Catalin is a trademark of the American Catalin Corporation.
Catalin bakelite is, perhaps, the most worldwide recognized plastic and was used from the 1930s to 1950s for many household objects, jewelry, small boxes, lamps, cutlery handles, and desk sets. Catalin jewelry, more commonly referred to now as Bakelite jewelry, was made from the 1930s until the end of WWII when it became too expensive, as every piece had to be individually cast and polished. The Catalin Corporation introduced 15 new colours in 1927 and developed techniques to create marbling. The colours included yellow, orange, red, greens, blue, and purple, with clear, opaque and marbled versions. In the 1930s, jewelry made from these colours were popular with sets of beads, bangles, earrings, and rings being worn together. Even though the jewelry made out of this material is referred to as bakelite in the antique trade, the household items, radios, cutlery, etc. are accurately referred to as Catalin. As a side note, the handles on John Wayne's iconic six shooter, seen in every movie from "El Dorado" through "Rooster Cogburn" were made of Catalin, not ivory, as often thought. It is has also been used for mountings on the great highland bagpipes.
Baker, L. Plastic Jewelry of the 20th Century, 2003