Ivory Jewelry

Ivory Jewelry

by Ms Nandita Ray

Getting hands on real Ivory is like “living in an Ivory Tower’, next to impossible. This is because real Ivory from the now endangered Indian Elephants is banned.

Part of organic jewelry series Organic jewelry Part 2, Part3


Getting hands on real Ivory is like “living in an Ivory Tower’, next to impossible. This is because real Ivory from the now endangered Indian Elephants is banned. African ivory sold and purchased from legal sources is allowed with some strict regulations. Though ivory in its original sense meant only elephant tusks, today it carries a wider circle of animals like Walrus, Boar, Sperm whale, Wart Hog, Hippopotamus and some seeds resembling ivory within its fold.

Elephant Ivory

ivory jewelryElephant Ivory is creamy white, opaque to look, hard and grainy to feel. It is made up of layers of dentine. The inner most layer is the newest and softest. Dentine is made up of 70 % of inorganic material while the remaining is collagen, an organic substance. Different species have different types of ivories. Some are soft while some hard. The tusks are not coated with enamel. Two thirds of the tusk is hollow. The calcified layers of tissue when cut transversely show lines in a particular manner called cross hatching. Some grain lines on the surface reveal a V shape. If held under 10X, oval shaped dots will appear. The color of the tusks depends on the species. African ivory exhibits creamish beige and appears mellow and soft. The Indian elephant’s tusk is white, gets yellow with age and looks like marble. It can be cut and carved easily, dyed and painted It picks up polish easily because the pores are filled with an oil like substance that ooze out gently.

Ivory from the now extinct mammal, with ridged molar teeth and hairy, from the Pleistocene Epoch was also used.

Hippopotamus Ivory

Have long grooved and spiral tusks. It is the second most widely used ivory.

Whale Ivory

Their lower jaws are used for making jewelry and accessories.

Walrus Ivory

The upper canines and other teeth are used. It is called Morse ivory.

Wart Hogs

The canines which grow upwards are used.

Organic Substitute

Tagua nut replaced real ivory. It was brought from South America to England. This led to the setting up of a number of factories in France and England in 1862. By the end of the nineteenth century vegetable ivory was flourishing. The nuts of the Betel tree and Areca nuts are also used.

Tips on buying Ivory Jewelry

Ivory is used for making costume as well as expensive jewelry. Bangles, bracelets, pendants, rings, earrings, necklaces, pins, buttons, beads, cuff links, piano key, billiard ball and figurines. Real elephant ivory is difficult to get. Besides it falls under banned items.

Genuine Ivory will appear fluorescent under strong light. It will give off whitish violet glow.

Real Ivory will show age by its yellow brown color, which will become dull yellow under artificial light.

It will have a uniform and compact texture.

It will show the Schreger lines.

When held under 10X loupe it will reveal oval shaped dots. Plastic or resin will not have these ducts.