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Catalin is a brand name for a thermosetting polymer that was popular from the 1930s. It was developed and trademarked in 1927 by the American Catalin Corporation, when the company acquired the patents for Bakelite. Catalin is a phenol formaldehyde resin, and can be worked with files, grinders and cutters and polished to a fine sheen. Catalin is produced by a different manufacturing process, a two-stage process, than other types of phenolic resins. It does not contain fillers, such as sawdust or carbon black. Catalin is transparent, near colorless, rather than opaque. Unlike other phenolics, it can be produced in bright colors or even marbled. This fact has made Catalin more popular than other types of Bakelite for consumer products.
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; white discolors to yellow. This caused 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, perhaps, worldwide the most 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 incorrectly 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 colors in 1927 and developed techniques to create marbling. The colors included yellow, orange, red, greens, blue, and purple, with clear, opaque and marbled versions. In the 1930s, jewelry made in these colors was 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. These two plastics are very different.
The handles on John Wayne's iconic six shooter, seen in every movie from "El Dorado" through "True Grit", were made of Catalin, not ivory, as often thought. It is has also been used for mountings on the great highland bagpipe.
Baker, L. Plastic Jewelry of the 20th Century, 2003