Galalith is a milk casein product that resembles bakelite or celluloid. Sometimes erroneously referred to as “French Bakelite,” this substance was developed in 1895 by German chemists seeking to create a “whiteboard” to replace the heavy slate “blackboards” used in schools. Their invention was patented under the name Lactoform and rapidly became a competitor to celluloid. Being a hard substance it takes a good, glossy polish and it proved to be an exciting new material with applications in many different industries.

A French chemist made a similar discovery c.1893. Manufacturing under the name Compagnie Française de la Galalithe, the French begin production of this casein-based plastic but the company failed. Galalith Gesellschaft Hoff purchased the rights to the process and filed a patent in 1906 for what they call Galalith. The new term quickly becomes synonymous with all casein-based plastics.

Many tons of Galalith were produced in both Germany and France, but the Germans were dependent on French casein for their production. As a result of the outbreak of World War I, restricting trade with Germany, the French soon captured the galalith market. Celluloid, galalith’s biggest competitor was also restricted during the war, as it was used in explosives manufacturing, clearing the way for a booming French galalith market.

Galalith is dyed many colors, with swirls and patterns worked into the mix. Because it cures to a non-flexible hardness it is the ideal material for use in faux gems and other jewelry materials. It cannot be molded or shaped, it must be carved and sculpted to create shapes and designs, this makes is excellent as an imitation for jadeite, ivory, and other carved gem materials. Highly polished and very hard it holds up perfectly as a jewelry material.

White Casein Australian Royal Air Force Buttons.

White Casein Australian Royal Air Force Buttons.