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  • Place of origin:

    Walthamstow (manufactured)

  • Date:

    1930-1940 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Halex Ltd. (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cellulose acetate with marbled effect

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

In the 1930s plastics were often used to imitate luxury natural products, but nature could also be exaggerated, and this box gives the impression that it was cut from a single piece of fantastically coloured jade or marble. The iridescent effect could be produced in various colours and green was the result of adding lead phosphate to the moulding compound.

The box was made by Halex Ltd, which was founded as British Xylonite in 1896 and opened its first factory in Walthamstow, East London, in 1897, where it pioneered the manufacture of celluloid in Britain. By the 1930s Halex Ltd was making a large variety of plastic personal goods including combs and toothbrushes, as well as household items like this box. Affordable products like this popularised high-style Art Deco and brought a taste of Hollywood glamour into ordinary British homes.

Physical description

Green, marble-effect, dressing-table box - widest in the centre, decreasing in depth and height in steps towards the ends.

Place of Origin

Walthamstow (manufactured)


1930-1940 (made)


Halex Ltd. (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Cellulose acetate with marbled effect


Height: 4.7 cm, Width: 7.5 cm, Depth: 13.5 cm

Object history note

Fred Bulmer, a collector based in Leeds, Yorkshire, offered his collection of ‘plastic antiques’ to the V&A in late 1982. The Museum chose to purchase 59 objects from Bulmer the following year (for acquisition papers see MA/1/B3395). The objects were divided among the Museum’s collections according to object type: Furniture and Woodwork taking 26 objects (W.50 to 75-1983), Metalwork 18 objects (M.49 to 66-1984) and Ceramics and Glass 14 objects (C.41 to 54-1984).

Descriptive line

Dressing-table box, green cellulose acetate, manufactured by Halex Ltd., London, 1930s

Production Note

The marbled effect would have been achieved by adding lead phosphate to the moulding compound.


Cellulose acetate


ELISE; Household objects; Plastic; Containers

Production Type

Mass produced


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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