Bakelite is a lightweight plastic, and invented in the 1900s. Its use in jewelry became very popular in the 1930s around the time of the Depression, when the financial position of many Americans meant that women were looking for accessories that they could buy cheaply to dress up their outfits. Bakelite jewelry fit the bill wonderfully. Pieces of Bakelite jewelry, available in a large range of colors, were designed to imitate coral, ivory, amber and tortoiseshell, which were much more expensive to buy.
As well as being a favorite of the less well off, Bakelite jewelry also appealed to those with more money. The more intricate, heavy detailed pieces of Bakelite jewelry were designed with the rich in mind. They sold at department stores for substantial amounts of money, as very few were produced. This type of jewelry is now highly sought after by collectors of Bakelite jewelry.