fbpixel
Big clear earrings | 80s vintage colorless lucite on 925 earring backs

Lucid lucite: Loud and clear jewelry

Mar 8, 2024 | jewelry materials

My love affair with lucite is long and established, but my relationship with clear jewelry is new, so it’s still steamy.

I can’t walk by a piece of vintage clear jewelry without picking it up, touching it, and looking under the hood to check the price.

So, my clear vintage colorless jewelry stash is growing.

Shop my favorite vintage clear jewelry on Etsy

Also growing is the minusOne line of handmade clear jewelry, because so many clear acrylic, clear lucite, and colorless crystal beads remain available, bought out by wholesale distributors from defunct warehouses.

minusOne jewelry | chunky clear bracelet | handmade with vintage
minusOne jewelry | chunky clear bracelet | handmade with vintage

minusOne jewelry | chunky clear bracelet | handmade with vintage
minusOne jewelry | chunky clear bracelet | handmade with vintage

What’s even better, lucite and other acrylic clear beads and findings are always unique and usually large and lightweight – my three pillars for jewelry design.

What is clear jewelry made of?

My favorite clear jewelry is made of lucite.

Lucite is a transparent thermoplastic that’s often used as a lighter, shatterproof alternative to glass. It was originally manufactured as acrylic glass.

Over the last one hundred years, jewelry made with plastics have been bold and colorful, and they have also, from the first, been clear. In fact, plastics are clear until color is added.

The 1940s launched mass-produced large, bright, and often colorless jewelry made for the first time possible through plastic.

This clear necklace has massive conic lucite beads matched with rhinestones and comes with matching earrings. (For sale on Etsy for $450.)

OffBroadwayVintage
OffBroadwayVintage

OffBroadwayVintage
OffBroadwayVintage

I’ve made simpler but similar earrings with dazzling clear lucite prism beads ($22 with French loops) that are still lightweight and hypoallergenic.

MCM style long clear earrings | 80s vintage prism cut acrylic dangles
MCM style long clear earrings | 80s vintage prism cut acrylic dangles

MCM style long clear earrings | 80s vintage prism cut acrylic dangles
MCM style long clear earrings | 80s vintage prism cut acrylic dangles

The variability made available through the invention of affordable and adaptable lucite and other acrylics has never gone away, although every year jewelry journalists claim that it’s made a return.

The value of clear lucite jewelry for designers

Jewelry designers love clear lucite for a lot of reasons, but perhaps the most important is the fact that it can be molded into any shape imaginable.

CHOFA’s knots are a good example of an everyday form made new for jewelry design through plastic.

The ribbon and bow have been around since the beginning of jewelry, but large, clear knots? That feels like something new.

Even at its largest statement size, lucite remains lightweight, so designers can follow flights of fancy, from all manner of fruits like in the 40s, animals and other realistic figures from the 60s to the 90s, to today’s complicated, futuristic geometric shapes.

This incredibly fabulous smooth crystal or clear lucite bead bracelet is set off by 18K gold textured beads.

(Chunky bracelets remain a favorite that I’m wearing into my 50s without a smidge of trepidation.)

https://dsfantiquejewelry.com/products/gold-crystal-bead-bracelet
DSF Antiques | 18K gold clear bead bracelet | $6,500

And with 3D imaging and printing, cuts can be made to catch and refract light based on scientific precision. So, lucite can mimic the brilliance of gemstones without the cost.

MCM style long clear earrings | 80s vintage prism cut acrylic dangles
MCM style long clear earrings | 80s vintage prism cut acrylic dangles

minusOne jewelry | chunky clear bracelet | handmade with vintage
minusOne jewelry | chunky clear bracelet | handmade with vintage

Lucite’s ability to mimic the clarity of glass and gems while being more resilient and affordable made it a perfect material for mass jewelry production, beginning at the height of the Art Deco era.

A renewed interest in vintage Lucite has accompanied contemporary jeweler’s renewed interest in using it in new designs and collections.

In the end, Lucite offers an eco-friendly alternative to traditional jewelry materials. Its production requires fewer resources compared to mining gemstones or manufacturing metals.

History of lucite jewelry

Lucite is a type of acrylic resin developed by chemists Röhm and Haas (both named Otto) in 1931. Known for its clarity (93% transparency) and durability,

Lucite, a brand name for acrylic glass, was first introduced in the 1930s by DuPont.

Lucite soon found applications in various industries, including military airplane canopies during World War II (commerically named Plexiglass).

Plexiglass WWII era aviation canopy
Plexiglass WWII era aviation canopy

Post-World War II, lucite emerged as a material of choice for fashion and accessories, like jewelry, purse handles and purses themselves, like these by Whiting and Davis.


photo by minusOne jewelry

Lucite was unique, in that for the first time, a material that mimicked the clarity of glass was made widely available that was lightweight, shatter-resistant, and easily moldable.

Its affordability made it an ideal choice for fashion designers and jewelers who had an eye on mass production.

The 1940s and 1950s witnessed a surge in lucite jewelry production, as designers experimented with transparency, colors, and moldability.

One of the pioneers in popularizing lucite jewelry was the renowned American designer Elsa Schiaparelli. In the 1930s, she collaborated with French jeweler Jean Clement to feature clear lucite in their designs.

But the 1950s marked the golden era of lucite jewelry, as designers embraced its versatility to create bold and innovative pieces. Costume jewelry, characterized by its affordable materials and mass production, became a canvas for lucite experimentation.Coco Chanel and Miriam Haskell incorporated clear lucite elements into their collections.

Best Vintage Clear Jewelry Designers

Many jewelry designers worked with acrylic since it became widely available in the 30s. Here’s a list of the best.

  1. Judith Hendler
  2. Inna Citrine
  3. Miriam Haskell
  4. Kenneth Jay Lane
  5. Elsa Schiaparelli / Jean Clement
  6. Trifari
  7. Dior

Judith Hendler’s clear jewelry

https://www.costumejewelrycollectors.com/vintage-costume-jewelry-research/designers-manufaturers-and-styles/a-conversation-with-judith-hendler/

Hendler was interviewed in 2013 about her process:

To the best of my knowledge, no one else worked with the acrylic in the same manner. Because I began with Swedlow acrylic, which is extremely hard polymer, we couldn’t manipulate it like softer plastics. I purchased lapidary equipment we modified for our use and all pieces were cut as though they were stones rather than plastic, then ground and polished by hand. Looking back, I marvel at what we did. I had no experience in this area, and while my husband trained me on the saws, sanding and drilling equipment, I had to learn through trial and error on the lapidary. 

Melinda Lewis on April 12, 2013 for CJCI
https://www.etsy.com/listing/1447488266/judith-hendler-lucite-clear-wedge-bangle
TheBeadCycle
Judith Hendler lucite clear bangle | TheBeadCycle

Judith Hendler signed clear acrylic bracelet
Judith Hendler signed clear acrylic bracelet

Kenneth Jay Lane’s clear jewelry

Kenneth Jay Lane, the Fabulous Fake, incorporated clear lucite into a handful of his designs. These pieces are now collectible and rare.

This Kenneth Jay Lane clear bubble bracelet is on sale for $650, $200-$400 more than the same design in opaque enamels.

https://jeweldiva.com/products/kenneth-jay-lane-hard-to-find-clear-lucite-bubble-cuff-bracelet
KJL clear bracelet | jeweldiva.com | $650

KJL clear bracelet | jeweldiva.com | $650
KJL clear bracelet | jeweldiva.com | $650

This Kennth Jay Lane clear bib necklace has an asking price of $350.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/334347069331

Lane and his design team often used lucite but they more often used the material in vibrant colors rather than clear. That said, the company still features a Kennth Jay Lane Clear Jewelry Collection, even if the number of pieces offered is rather scant.

Trifari Clear Jewelry

Although later in its business life, Trifari became better known for its more affordable costume jewelry line, its earlier designs – often known as Crown Trifari – were higher end.

This collectible lucite shell brooch has an asking price of $850.

https://dsfantiquejewelry.com/products/trifari-alfred-philippe-1940-s-crystal-lucite-shell-brooch

Contemporary Clear Jewelry Designers

  1. Alexis Bittar
  2. Rachel Comey
  3. CHOFA

Alexis Bittar

With a studio in Brooklyn, NY, Alexis Bittar’s lucite jewelry is hand-carved, sometimes clear, and sometimes painted.

They frequently incorporate metallic colors and metals, like these “Liquid Vine” earrings.

Alexis Bittar | Liquid Vine Lucite Mobile Earring | $375
Alexis Bittar | Liquid Vine Lucite Mobile Earring | $375

Alexis Bittar | Liquid Vine Lucite Mobile Earring | $375
Alexis Bittar | Liquid Vine Lucite Mobile Earring | $375

Bittar has been designing clear lucite jewelry since the 90s, so vintage pieces are available.

He designed Burberry’s first ready to wear jewelry collection, putting their brand plaid on lucite.

minusOne’s clear jewelry

Inspired as always by the vintage beads and findings made in the USA from the 30s through the 90s, I love to use large clear pieces for looks that might be considered classic or avant garde.




You’ll be surprised how lightweight and versatile clear jewelry can be.

Shop my growing collection of minusOne clear jewelry.

Rachel Comey

Rachel Comey makes jewelry from translucent acetate (which, while similar in appearance to Lucite, is actually a wood-pulp-based material.

Rachel Comey
Rachel Comey | Isle Earring | $125

Clear jewelry by CHOFA

CHOFA is a Miami-based brand featuring a collection of handcrafted lucite jewelry and contemporary designs by Argentinian artist Sofia Pagano. Miami seems like the perfect birthplace of plastic jewelry. The collections vary from contemporary intricate knots (inspired by sailing) to geometric designs.

https://creatoriq.cc/3vcPhe9



Shop the Etsy marketplace for clear jewelry.

Stay in Touch with minusOne jewelry!

Have more ideas? Let me know! I’d love to hear from you.

Join my newsletter!

Stay and buy yourself something nice. Shop your Style.

minusOne jewelry logo of a pink Art Deco scallop | Trumansburg NY

Recent Posts