The plastics industry benefited from the research and development of materials that took place during the First and Second World Wars and that, for better or worse, would affect life and the environment, probably forever.
Lucite (polymethyl methacrylate) as a thermoplastic acrylic material was developed by Dupont at the end of the 1920s, but it was released on the market in the 30s. It was then that they began to sell licenses to jewelry firms that embraced the material for its possibilities, resistance and low cost that made it play in another division compared to other existing plastic materials, such as bakelite, galalith or catalin, as it allowed making opaque, translucent or transparent pieces and even inserting materials inside such as glitter, abalone shells, etc.
In the mid-20th century it was a real boom and could also be seen in small bags or even heels and, although Lucite was specifically the material manufactured by Dupont, all acrylic plastic of a similar composition ended up being called "lucite" in a phenomenon similar to that of Kleenex to name any tissue paper. However, names such as Plexiglas, Perspex, or Acrylex are just some of the names under which this acrylic material was marketed by other companies.
If we go back to those times we can see Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Taylor with accessories made of this material or, back in the 60s, Twiggy with her "Swinging London" modeling for Vogue with her acrylic jewelry.
Lucite even became known as acrylic glass for its use as a screen for, among other things, airplanes. In fact, there are several rumors that say that Jelly Bellies, animals with lucite bellies marketed between the late 1930s and 1940s by firms such as Trifari or Coro, were made from defective sheets of this material that were not suitable for aviation industry.
The possibilities were endless, sunglasses, umbrella handles, household items, artistic objects... but they did not count with several problems, first the contamination from the manufacture of plastics and second the degradation of the material, and this is a disease against which many museums and chemists fight and investigate daily in order to preserve the representative objects of the 20th century.
The degradation is not immediate, it can take many years and even centuries and it even depends on the type of plastic. For example, acrylic materials such as lucite are among the most durable, but if the piece is poorly treated, its degradation can be greatly accelerated. For this reason, it is preferable to keep them away from heat sources, preserve them from substances such as perfumes or lotions and store them in places free of dust and humidity.
Perhaps many of the creators of costume jewelry did not count on the collectability of lucite pieces, but they are wonderful treasures that transport many of us to a time that we do not live. Obviously the industry continues to make plastic accessories but perhaps it is more interesting both for our outfits and collections, as well as for the environment that we conserve and love what has already been done because "what is done is done"