In 1931 the Dupont corporation invented Lucite. Lucite is an acrylic material that has many practical uses much like Bakelite. This new material was water resistant and had over 90% clarity which made it a great option to use for the iconic bubble top of WWII planes.
It wasn’t until the 1940s that Lucite was widely used for purses and accessories such as earrings and bracelets. The original boom of Lucite handbag popularity lasted around 10-15 years and during this time thousands of bags were produced by numerous design houses such as:
- Patricia of Miami
- Gilli Originals
- Charles Khan
There are countless styles of Lucite purses designed to dazzle! Listed below are a few main style categories they fall into:
Pure Clear Lucite
These bags are completely clear and true to the material and showcase the form of the purse. These purist bags can have all types of hinges and clasps from brass to rhinestone.
The close sister style to pure Lucite these bags are tinted Lucite with colors ranging from solid black, apple juice browns, pink, baby blue and white the color options were endless.
Possibly one of the most interesting varieties of these bags are ones that have items that are embedded and enveloped into the Lucite material. Confetti glitter of all colors and combinations, dazzling rhinestones, a tropical twist with seashells and sand or flower petals, the combinations were endless.
Mixed materials were very popular with Lucite. Box purse styles made from metal either woven like a basket or metal punch with a Lucite lid and handle could be found in many shapes, styles and colors.
A wide variety of handles, hinges and clasps were designed to accentuate the simple clean beauty of Lucite. The real showstoppers were completely covered in rhinestones that were set into carving lines. Jewel set rhinestone clasps and hinges, pearls on clasp closures the world was your oyster and the designers of the time took every opportunity to let their creativity flow.
You will see in many Lucite items that there is carving of geometric or floral patterns. This technique adds to the reflective quality and interest by creating a crystal like illusion. Whether carved into the sides of a bangle or on the underside of a purse lid the designs are truly something to behold.
When caring for your Lucite purses or accessories store them carefully and out of direct sunlight. If they are dirty or dusty the tried and true method of cleansing is with simple soap and warm water. Use a non abrasive, soft and absorbent cloth to wipe them down and they will be glowing for years.
There is a downside to some vintage Lucite purses. Most commonly referred to as “Lucite Disease” which is a chemical breakdown that can happen over time if not properly cared for. There is a wealth of information on the web about this and if you are interested in collecting or already have a collection of Lucite you may want to read up to see what to watch out for.