Lucite furniture: rocking chair, $20.

Lucite is a transparent acrylic plastic that was developed back around 1931 by the American company DuPont and the German company Rohm & Haas, at about the same time. DuPont called their formula 'Lucite' and the Germans called theirs 'Plexiglass.' Both names have survived to this day.

Lucite was the first petroleum-based plastic and was an immediate hit. When compared to the nitrocellulose-based plastics of the day, Lucite was much stronger and extremely clear. As a matter of fact, Lucite is so clear that it's actually clearer than glass, which accounts for the incredibly bright look it displays when used in decorative applications.

Because of its clarity and strength, Lucite was used extensively during World War II in aircraft nose cones, windscreens and windows. After the war, DuPont marketed the plastic in all kinds of consumer applications like furniture, handbags, hood ornaments, silverware, jewelry and just about everything you can think of.

If you're not already aware, vintage Lucite items are very popular and highly collectable nowadays among the collectors and decorators who want that unmistakable mid-century look. These folks know that besides being just great to look at, nothing screams '1950s' like a big, beautiful (okay, sometimes gaudy) chunk of Lucite furniture. Lucite is popular now because it was popular then.

Something to keep in mind about Lucite is that as a chemical compound, Lucite is not inherently old stuff. In other words, the fact that something is made from Lucite does not necessarily mean it's old. Lucite furniture, jewelry and many other items are still being made today. Since new Lucite can easily look like old Lucite, the easiest way to tell the difference is to look at what's with the Lucite. Things like cushions, pillows, fabrics, lampshades, fasteners and accessories can give away a piece's age. The gaudy, faded material covering our rocker, for example, is a giveaway that this is not a new piece of furniture.

This lucite rocking chair ended up selling on eBay for $224.

Photo of vintage lucite rocking chair