; Rus- слоновая кость
A. Ivory. Sperm whale (Physeter Linnaeus, 1758 sp.)
tooth (height - 22.8 cm) from unidentified
source area. Collection of John Karlo. (© photo by Dick Dietrich)
DESCRIPTION: Although ivory is
best defined as the dentine portion of a mammal's tooth, this entry
deals only with the ivory widely marketed as such -- i.e., the ivory portions of one or
more teeth of elephants, hippopotami, narwhals,
sperm whales, walruses, and certain members of the pig (Suidae) family. Pertinent features of each
of these animals are
described briefly under REMARKS.
composed of inorganic and
materials: The inorganic
part is chiefly, if not wholly, rather poorly crystalline apatite
the organic part is chiefly
collagenous. (For more about the "poorly
crystalline apatite," see the comments about
"bioapatite" under the
Description subheading in the BONES entry.)
following macroscopic properties and characteristics should suffice to
ivory from bone, vegetable "look-alikes" and synthetics such as
celluloid and polymers, which are common simulants of ivory. A few of the listed
properties provide means of at least
tentatively distinguishing, for example, elephant ivory from other
natural ivories -- see also the ADDENDUM at the end of this
entry. In many cases, however, procedures utilizing
"state of the art" equipment are used to
determine the identity of the animal from which any particular ivory
Colors - ivory("creamy")-white,
rarely tan; white ivory often "yellows" with
age; also, I have been
told, but to date have been unable to verify, the frequently stated
ivory exhibits a "warm" cream-like appearance
whereas Indian elephant ivory is more nearly
"cold" white, and that both narwhal and
hippopotamus ivory commonly
exhibit an off-white mottling of the overall creamy white color
Texture - typically
rather uniform and compact as
compared to that of other natural organic materials available in the
size ranges of ivory. In addition,
see Figure B and the relevant statements in the ADDENDUM.
H. (effective hardness) ~ 5 for hippopotamus and
narwhal ivory, which are slightly harder than elephant ivory;
S.G. 1.7 - 2.0:
1.70 -1.85 (elephant and mammoth); 1.80 - 1.95 (hippopotamus); 1.9 -2.0
and warthog) -- values recorded
Light transmission -
translucent to opaque
Luster - dull to pearly to
Breakage - irregular, commonly
Miscellaneous - Fluorescence: Most ivory
fluoresces white/violet-blue under long-wave ultraviolet light. Careful macroscopic
examination, especially of transverse sections, will permit one to
distinguish between elephant ivory and mammoth ivory (see Figure
distinguish both of them from the ivories of other animals;
to distinguish walrus ivory from the ivories of other
animals; etc. -- See the ADDENDUM.
OTHER NAMES: "Unless suitably
qualified, the term ivory should ... be restricted to the tusks of the
present-day elephant." Smith and
Phillips, 1962) But,
use of the term ivory is not so restrictive:
For some people,
including connoisseurs and experts, ivory may be derived from other
animals. And, the
name of the animal from which any given ivory came may or may not be
noted in displays and advertisements. When so-used, ivory is
usually preceded by the
animal's common name but, in
some cases, the geographic source of the animal is also mentioned
-- e.g., whether the ivory
was from an African or Indian elephant.
In addition, the word tusk or tooth is sometimes used -- e.g., elephant and narwhal tusks versus hippopotamus teeth. The following terms
also have found some use; the terms with asterisks [*] have
the definitions given in IFAW, nd).
B. Schreger lines. Transverse sections
ivory (left) and African elephant ivory (right) -- As the scale
(bar in upper right equals 1 cm) suggests, these lines/patterns, which
roughly resemble "engine turnings," can be
seen with naked eye or use of only a
hand lens. Additional comments about these lines are given in the
ADDENDUM. (© American Institute for Conservation of
Historic and Artistic Works; from http://aic.stanford.edu/jaic/articles
-- (Espinoza & Mann, 1993)).
USES: Jewelry – Ivory has been
bangles, belt buckles, bracelets,
cameos, cuff links,
necklaces and rings. Some ivory used in jewelry has been carved or
engraved, including scrimshaw (see Figure E, right). And, ivory
has also been
used as the background for other artistically conceived pieces
such as portrait miniatures and the brooch shown as Figure B in the
ivory* - ivory from an animal that has been dead for a long time, for
example from an elephant carcass found in the bush.
tooth - term sometimes given hippopotamus ivory (IFAW, nd).
mammoth ivory retrieved from the ground. [Robert Weisblut (personal
communication, 2006) notes that other ivories, such as walrus and sperm
whale ivory also should be included and notes: "I would equate fossil
ivory to mineralized ivory." I have problems with this designation:
Should it be applied to all mastodon ivory because they are
considered fossils? What about ivory retrieved from the ground
but not mineralized? ...]
ivory* - ivory from a freshly killed animal.
pearl (= elephant tusk pearl = ivory pearl = gaja mini = gaja-muthu) -
spherical masses, made up of concentric layers
of dentine deposited on a "foreign body" nuclei, formed
within some elephants' tusks; these "pearls," which are noted
here only because they are marketed as ivory pearls some places, are
usually found in tusks
of elephants who have been sick or have damaged tusks (Robert Weisblut,
personal communication, 2006). Of interest here is
the fact that these, apparently because they are revered by some
elements of Sri Lankan and Indian groups,
have been simulated; and, at least
some of the
simulants have been shown to have been "fashioned from the molar tooth
of, most likely, an Asian elephant." (Singbamroong, 2008)
- Asian or African forest elephant ivory. [ Robert Weisblut (personal
communication, 2006) applies this term to "Elephant ivory from
western Africa." Geographic source areas are noted by Webster (1975, p.
turquoise - This turquoise-colored ivory is sometimes called
-- See REMARKS, third paragraph.
name sometimes applied to ivory derived from teeth of
marine animals such as whales and walruses.
name sometimes applied to walrus ivory.
ivory - name given to ivory marketed "for use in small engravings and
plaques ... [that is] ivory veneer removed from old piano keys!"
& Kammerling, 1991).
- ivory with a high oil content, used for the carving
roses in Europe during the 19th century.
tusks - Term sometimes given hippopotamus ivory (IFAW, nd).
- Soft ivory
- "Elephant ivory from eastern Africa." (Weisblut, personal
communication, 2006) [Geographic source
areas are noted by Webster (1975, p. 522).]
ivory - Ivory that has been processed using a "chemical process that
hardens old ivory so that it won't crack, warp, or chip, and works
without changing its color." (Weisblut, personal
Carvings and engravings – Several fine
carvings that depict flowers, animals and legends have been fashioned, many in Africa,
Europe, and Asia (especially in
China, India, Indonesia and Japan). A figurine, "Venus of Hohle Fels," that
is said to date back some 40,000 years and described as "The oldest
sculpture of a human being ... [, was] carved out of mammoth ivory"
(Curry, 2012). Inuit carvings from
walrus ivory have been used as amulets and fetishes
as well as for skinners and knives. An especially fine
ivory ojime ...[showing] bamboo and a
sparrow" is illustrated in Dubin (1987, p.169). One of my
favorites, of which I have seen only a photograph, is the "hinged ivory
tusk [not otherwise identified] with mining scene carved in its
interior ... [which was carved in] Germany ca. 1850." that is in the
Harb and Monika Obodda collection (Huizing,2008). The Japanese
have given the name bachiru to ivory pieces that have been carved
through the outer
cementum layer of tusk to create a cameo effect. A different,
commercially oriented, kind of carving is shown as Figure D.
Ivory is used as inlay on pieces such as
chests and furniture. Particularly when
combined with ebony, such inlay often gives striking,
black and white contrasts.
Miscellany -- Ivory has found wide use
for such things as billiard
balls, buttons, chess pieces, chop sticks, combs, dice, dominoes, hand
mobiles, flutes (e.g.,
ancient mammoth-flutes), piano keys (still frequently referred
to as "the ivories"),
religious figurines, staff
and pastoral stave heads, sword
handles, tatting shuttles, toilet seats, vessels, and, of course, Ahab's
other's?) left peg leg(s?). As one might suspect,
many utilitarian uses of ivory relate to one or more of its
properties; three examples are 1. its use as handles for teapots
is based on its being a heat insulator (along this line, it also is an
electric insulator); 2. its use for piano keys relates to the
that ivory absorbs perspiration and players' fingers do not slip on
ivory as they tend to on some plastic-covered keys; and 3.
as the "canvas" for portrait miniatures was based on the fact that
absorbed paints as desired (see Figure B, HORN entry).
Nonetheless, virtually all these uses have been supplanted, at
least in part, by man-made
materials that resemble ivory – see pertinent information given under
under REMARKS and SIMULANTS.
CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and
Flora): Actions by, for example, CITES-MA of Thailand and TRAFFIC
(the wildlife trade monitoring network) should be observed and
kept in mind by anyone with an interest in obtaining any thing produced
information about CITES is given on several web sites -- just enter
CITES on any search "engine" you use on the inter-net to learn the
objectives, laws, efforts to enforce them, etc. that relate to this extremely
important effort to stop activities that have and unfortunately
continue to lead to extinction of certain species of wildlife,
including those that are witnessing possible extinction because ivory
is obtained from their dead bodies.
Added 27 January
ivory The phillippines crushed 5 tons of smuggled elephant
tusks (worth $10 million) to duscourage trading" (Time Magazine, July
8/16, 2013). One wonders if this might lead to higher
prices and even more poaching?!
OCCURRENCES & NOTEWORTHY
LOCALITIES: Ivory, called teeth or tusks, occurs
where the host animals live either in the wild or captivity. Another noteworthy source is in, for
example, Alaska where these animal parts are found as the glacial and
other ice is melted. And, even more recently, a well-illustrated
article shows how mammoth tusks have been and continue to be recovered
from "ice cliffs" along Siberian coastal area of the Arctic Ocean.
REMARKS: The designation ivory
comes from Middle English ivorie
from Old French yvoire, ivurie,...; from Latin eboreus (adjective) from ebur, ebor-ivory -- cf. Coptic ebu ivory, Egyptian ´bw, Sanskrit ibhas elephant. (O.E.D.) The designation tusk
stems from the Old English "tux
(whence by metathesis ME tusk, tosk), ... ([ -- refers to] A
long pointed tooth; esp. a tooth specially
developed so as to project beyond the mouth, as in the elephant, wild
boar, and various other animals. A tusk is most frequently a
development of a canine tooth, as in the boar and walrus; but it may be
an incisor, as in the elephant and narwhal." (O.E.D.)
pieces are carved and/or polished. Ivory has
working properties" (MacGregor, 1985, p.38); it also has been
procedures such as those mentioned for bone were apparently used for
ivory as early as "the upper Paleolithic
period ... the
objective was to soften the ivory with a view to eliminating the
natural curvature, and since the tusk in question was from mammoth
rather than elephant ..., the curve would have been considerable.
A spear made entirely of mammoth ivory was found in association with
two skeletons, the spear being so straight that it could only have been
made by softening the raw material from which was made and
straightening out the curvature." (MacGregor, 1985, p.71). --
Remarkable!!! Webster (1975) notes that softening has also been
accomplished by using nitric and phosphoric acid solutions. So
far as dyeing (and staining) processes,
rubbing in of
vegetable oils has been used to create diverse colors, and tea has been
used as a stain ivory to create a patina-like appearance.
The allusion to dyeing suggests that this is a good place to consider
the term odontolite. This term --
implication, synonymous designations such as
ivory turquoise, bone turquoise, fossil turquoise and fossil toothstone -- has had a complex
history of application. In fact, even today it appears to mean
things to different people -- Three examples are 1."Mammoth ivory which
has been coloured (usually blue or greenish) through being buried along
side iron phosphate minerals which leach into the tusk." (IFAW, nd). 2. the AGI
Geology (3rd edition) definition: "A fossil bone or tooth colored deep blue by iron
phosphate (vivianite) ... and resembling
turquoise, such as that from the tusks of mammoths found in
Siberia." (Bates & Jackson,
1987) and 3. the statements and conclusions
recorded by Reiche et al.
(2001) that indicate a)this materials has been formed as the result of ""Heat-induced
color changes of fossilized ... mastodon ivory ... [ that, for example,,]
Cistercian monks are believed to have created odontolite, a
turquoise-blue 'gemstone,' by heating mastodon ivory ... to use it for
the decoration of medieval
b)the color is due to the
presence of fluorapatite
that contains trace amounts of iron, manganese, barium, lead and
uranium. My petrologic experience makes me wonder if there are
or more different materials with different origins that have been
following causes of undesired changes in ivory should be kept in
mind: Ivory is
porous, permeable and hygroscopic. Consequently, moisture
can move in and out of it. The movement, which usually is easier
than perpendicular to the "grain" of the
ivory, is commonly uneven. In any case, it may cause
yellowing, development of a dull luster and/or alternate
swelling and shrinkage and/or warping and
prolonged periods, such movement of fluids may, of course, cause
virtually complete deterioration. (Along this line, I recall
reading a statement in an advertisement for a
narwhal tusk to the effect that
purchasing the tusk should be
aware of the fact that the tusk would require intermittent rubbing
with, I believe it was, Vaseline to prevent the tusk from drying out
and cracking. -- But, I am told that is not necessary: "If kept
humidity controlled area or near a glass of water nothing else is
needed." (Robert Weisblut, personal communication, 2006). In any
case, empirical observations indicate that acidic
solutions tend to promote more harmful deleterious changes over shorter
periods than alkali
solutions. This probably reflects well-known acid reactions
apatite. Alkali conditions, however, may also have
ill-effects: Alkalinity is known to promote removal of at
least some of the
inorganic constituents in ivory.
Another thing: The porosity and "grain" of ivory are known to have
led to its being stained when
placed in contact with, for example,
such things as jewelry, knife handles and sword hilts. All these
things indicate that typical cleaning methods should not be used
to clean ivory. IF a cleaning solution is used, it
must be used sparingly, quickly, and any moisture must be removed
immediately so none of it penetrates the ivory. This, of course,
suggests that the use of extremely fine dry abrasives is probably the
safest way to clean ivory; for a rather complete study relating
to the cleaning of ivory, see
Driggers, Mussey and Garvin (1991). Two more
cautions: Prolonged exposure to sunlight may lead to
bleaching and/or making the ivory brittle, and sudden changes in
temperature should be avoided.
In her summary of the early history of the use of beads, Dubin (1987,
p.21) refers to engravings on mammoth tusks as "the earliest known
(Homo neanderthalensis King, 1864) and/or Cro-Magnon
sapiens Linnaeus, 1758)
apparently fashioned both decorative and functional
items from ivory and bone at least 50,000 years ago.
Archaeological excavations have yielded several articles fashioned from
ivory during the Upper Palaeolithic era; examples include ivory
“exquisite figurines” (e.g., Appenzeller, 1998); ivory, as
well as bone,
needles with eyelets, unearthed in the eastern margin of the Central
Russian Upland, about 250 miles south of Moscow, and dated as "roughly
24-22 ka BP (uncalibrated
personal communication, 2006 -- see also Hoffecker, 2002); and an ivory
flute, found in the Swabian Jura of southwestern Germany, that was made
mammoth tusks "roughly 35,000 years
ago" (Conrad et al., 2004) -- The flute, which
is illustrated, is especially noteworthy: It was carved in two
separate halves that fit together so closely when joined that the
"seam" was air-tight. In
addition, "Friedrich Seeberger, an expert in prehistoric music and
co-author of this report, has made a replica in elder wood. [And] His early
experimentation suggests that the old flute would have allowed a
relatively sophisticated level of musical variation. 'The tones are
quite harmonic,' he says. They don't seem to follow a diatonic scale,
he notes, but rather the rules of the pentatonic scale ..." (Schneider,
2004). *+*Conrad also found
"Hohle Fels Venus," a 6 cm tall, 3-dimensional female figurine
that was carved from Mammoth Ivory in the Hohle Fels area of Germany
(see full-page enlargement with news item by MCally, 2009).
Attention is also
directed to the short summaries of historical uses of ivory in
several cultures (e.g.,
ancient Assyria, Egypt, Greece and Rome; prehistoric and 17th and
18th century Europe; Africa, China, India (and Goa) and
Japan; Islam and "Christian Europe" as well as the United States
of America) given by Wills (1968). *+*The use of carved
chess pieces is treated and illustrated in an article by Gordon
(2009). Among the pieces illustrated are an ivory pawn from a 9th
or 10th century Arabian set and some of the pieces from "One of the few
complete early European chess sets ... known as the 'Lewis Chessmen,'
probably made in Trondheim Norway between 1150 and 1200 from walrus
ivory and whales' teeth."
people hold that "'True' ivory comes from
and mammoths. But, the term is generally applied to the tusks of
other mammals, and some synthetics." (Springate,
people, and I agree, apply the name all the widely used tooth material
on Figure C and noted in the next
indented parts of this paragraph.
C. Ivory. "Schematic
representation of the skulls and tusks of ivory-bearing mammals (not
drawn to scale)" -- from Brown and Moule
(1977a). (Slide -retouched-
courtesy Grahame Brown)
(African - Loxodonta africana (Blumenbach,
1797) & Asian - Elephas maximus Linnaeus, 1758) and mammoths (Mammuthus primigenius* -- for a discussion
of this scientific name, see the last paragraph under this REMARKS
subheading) - The upper
incisors of these animals, widely referred to as "tusks," are large -- e.g., the famous Kilimanjaro
elephant had tusks that weighed approximately 102 and 108 kg, were more
long and a 60 cm in circumference at their bases,
[However,"no other tusk in history ever went over 190 pounds [~86 kg]."
communication, 2006)] In any case,
their other teeth are
but typically not homogeneous enough for use as
ivory. Both male and female African elephants have tusks whereas
only some male Indian elephants have tusks. Mammoths'
tusks, most of
which have been recovered where they were frozen in ice (e.g., in Siberia), have also found
as ivory, usually referred to as "fossil ivory."
"Blood Ivory" from
Elephants is described and discussed in the October issue of National Geographic (Christy,
2012). Though including some fine illustrations of some
exquisitely carved pieces, the general theme of the article is one
close to my mind-/heart-set, which is well expressed by
Editor in Chief Chris Johns' editor's note (ibid. p. 4), "I see carnage and death."
D. Ivory. Antique Ivory
Elephant Tusk Table. Close-ups show the intricately
elephants, under leafy trees, that are included. Hand carved
and signed by Claudia Kuripa. (© photo courtesy Lewis Drake and Associates,
(also called sea horses; Hippopotamus
ivory comes from their upper and lower canines (the lower, which range
60+ cm long, are especially prized) and incisors. It is said to
most commonly used ivory ... to be denser than elephant ivory,
harder to carve, ... [to have] a finer grain. ... [and to be] less
prone to decay than elephant ivory." (Springate, 1997). By the way, many of
us, as school children, learned that George Washington had
wooden false teeth; apparently this is not true. --
Hippo World (1997), "George Washington's
false teeth were not made of wood, as is commonly believed,
but were carved from the tusks of a hippopotamus."
(also called sea
unicorns; Monodon monoceros Linnaeus,
- Most males of these Arctic whales have one long spirally twisted and
grooved ivory tusk that is 1.8-3.0 m long. -- See photograph on
page 98 of the January 2006 issue of National
A few females also
have one tusk, and some males and females have two tusks, in
which case one is usually much longer than the other. The typical
"tusk," which usually projects from the left side of most narwhals'
"marketed by medieval merchants -- possibly in all good faith -- as the
authentic horn of the fabulous unicorn" (Humphreys
1953), and endowed with all the powers then attributed to
the unicorn. From the ridiculous to the ...: "Perhaps
impressive object to incorporate narwhal tusks is the
seventeenth-century royal throne of Denmark, now in Rosenborg Castle,
Copenhagen." (MacGregor (1985, p.43). Another noteworthy piece is a roughly
cylindrical vessel in the Vienna Kunsthistorisches Museum (see
whales (also called
macrocephalus Linnaeus, 1758)
whales have up to
cone-shaped teeth, all of which are
posterior to their canines in their lower
jaws; each tooth is 6 - 24 cm long and
weighs 900 -1000 grams (see Figure
teeth of sperm whales' lower jaws have been used as ivory.
(Odobenus rosmarus (Linnaeus,
1758)) - Walrus ivory is also known as "morse ivory." Although
ivory comes from their upper canines (tusks), ivory of their other
teeth is also used. Walrus tusks, commonly up to 1.5
m. long, are composed largely of dentine -- i.e., ivory. In cross-section the tusks can be
seen to consist of "a thin outer cementum layer, an inner ivory/dentine
layer and a secondary dentine layer" or core. The "inner ivory/dentine"
layer commonly exhibits lines that radiate outward from the central
core. The core dentine is more porous than the surrounding
dentine (Brown and Moule, 1977a, p. 49) and has a finely compacted,
mottled appearance, characterized as having a "marbled or oatmeal-like"
appearance by Espinoza and Mann (1992, p.14) -- see
Figure E. The "inner
ivory/dentine" layer is often referred to as primary dentine; the
material, sometimes described as "crystal-like" or "crystalline,"
is widely referred to as secondary dentine or
osteodentine, also referred to as "repair dentin" by Brown and Moule (ibid.). Contrariwise,"The
Teeth (molars) in cross section have a thick cementum layer, a
transition ring, a[n] inner
dentine/ivory layer and sometimes at or near center is a trace of
(otherwise unattributed quotations are from W.R. Mann; additional
descriptive information is from R.E. Weisblut, personal communications,
Pig (Suidae) family -- e.g., warthogs (Phacochoerus aethiopicus (Pallas,
1766) & wild boars (Sus scrofa,
Linnaeus, 1759 ) - Members of the pig family from which ivory has been
used have continually growing canines -- a pair in each jaw. So far as the
warthog's canines, "Both pairs grow upwards with the upper ones being
by far the most spectacular. The lower pair ... are straight and
keep a keen edge by the upper set rubbing against them. They are
sharply pointed. ¶ The upper canines can grow up to 9 inches
(23. cm). They are of a squashed circle shape in cross-section,
almost rectangular, being about 1 3/4 in (4.5 cm) deep and 1 in (2.5
cm) wide. The tusk will curve 90 degrees or more from the root. The
tusk will not lie flat on a table, as it curves somewhat backwards as
it grows." (Wikipedia, 2006a ) As might be suspected, only
relatively small pieces or parts of things are fashioned from these
Ivory. Walrus Ivory:
Left, slice of Fossil Walrus Ivory (width ~6.3 cm);
note that the colorization is only in the primary dentine --i.e., it has not penetrated the
secondary dentine; Robert
E. Weisblut collection ; (©
Weisblut). Right, "Weathering the storm in my heart" --
scrimshawed slice of fossil walrus tusk (width 6.5 cm); again,
note especially the central "crystalline" area; Kim
McClelland, Artist; William R.
Mann Collection; (© photo by W.R. Mann).
(also called sea cows, Dugong dugon
(Müller, 1776)) - This ivory, perhaps the rarest of all ivories,
is said to come from the females(IFAW, nd). This despite the
fact "The dugong has
a single upper incisor on each side of the jaw (which is tusk-like in
males)..." (Huffman, 2005) and "The second uppers [incisors] are
tusk-like and in the males over 12 years protrude (they are usually
hidden in the jaw in females)." (everything2, 2001). If
these descriptions are correct, I have to wonder if the female's
"tusks" being hidden has anything to do with their use and/or if the
male's tusks not being used is just an omission in the records.
In any case, the
female's hidden "tusks" are described as up to 20 cm long, apricot in
color and nearly solid ivory (IFAW, nd).
Dugongs -- unlike their manatee "cousins" -- are
restricted to marine environments; they are native to shallow
coastal waters of the Red Sea, Indian and southwest Pacific
oceans. Carvings from their ivory are known from south-eastern
Asia and the nearby islands -- e.g., Java, Sumatra and the
Helmeted Hornbills - See SIMULANTS
and the HORNBILL "IVORY" entry.
about the bans
placed on marketing, ownership, shipping, etc. of ivory are confusing. For
example, the BBC ... (1999)
"Between 1988 and 1997 there was a worldwide ban on the
ivory trade to try to protect an elephant population which had suffered
drastically at the hands of poachers.", whereas I have been told
by a person who keeps close track of this subject "There was and still
is no law forbidding the purchase, ownership, shipping, sale, carving,
of ivory made before 1989 and done within a country. Plus CITES allows
for international shipping of processed ivory made before 1989 with an
exemption certificate." (Robert Weisblut, personal communication,
2006). In any case, existing restrictions are
different for different animals. And, some harvesting of
ivory is considered illegal, yet poachers continue
to kill elephants illegally for their ivory. As
mid-May, 2006, "Hong Kong customs officials ... seized an illegal trove
of 600 ivory tusks from endangered African elephants, the largest such
seizure there since the 1989 ban on the international trade in
ivory."(U.S.News..., 2006) How these tusks were shipped, however,
noted; in the past, "Customs officials have found ... [them] in
BONE MATERIAL, MARBLE or even JEWELRY."(Prothero & Schoch, 2002,
p.193). One wonders if DNA tests were made on any of these
harvested and shipped tusks to determine the
region/country from which they probably came (see
Scigliano, 2005). See also Barta (2007). .
The woolly mammoth (Mammuthus
primigenius Blumenbach, 1799) is the state fossil of
* Inconsistencies so far as citations of the scientific name for the
mammoth -- i.e., the
widespread use of Mammuthus primigenius with no attribution
versus the relatively rare use
of Mammuthus primigenius Blumenbach, 1799
-- has been
clarified as follows: The Siberian woolly mammoth "was formally
Johann Friedrich Blumenbach in 1799. Much later authorities
realized that the mammoth was sufficiently distinct to warrant its own
genus. It's now known as Mammuthus primigenius" [which is usually
given with no
attribution]. (The Academy ... 1998-2004)
SIMULANTS: Natural as well as manufactured
have been and continue to be substituted for ivory. Espinoza and
Mann (1992, p.25) categorize the latter as "1) composites of an organic
resin and an inorganic material; 2) composites of casein and a
resin material and, 3) composites of ivory sawdust with a binder or
resin ... [But] Ivory sawdust compositions are not ivory
substitutes in the true sense of the term. [And,] They are subject to
the same international trade controls and permit requirements as solid
ivory products [-- see last paragraph of Remarks.]." Espinoza and
Mann (op. cit., p.26-27) also suggest procedures to
distinguish ivory from ivory substitutes -- e.g., the manufactured products
absorb ultraviolet light (i.e.,
they appear dull blue) whereas ivory exhibits a white/blue
fluorescence; examination of shapes and other features (which
tabulate and illustrate);
no specific identification is suggested by ... [the outlined steps],
submit object for laboratory controlled instrumental analyses."
Ivory has had noteworthy reversed-roles so far as a few
simulations. "Imperial jade [also called 'ivory jade'],
tourmaline and coral
imitated with walrus tusks" (Ahrens, ca.
1986, p. 24) is an example.
Several substitutes mentioned in the literature and/or communicated to
me orally follow:
- Variously described as crushed alabaster or calcium carbonate with an
adhesive binder (Shell, 1983 and Espinoza & Mann,
1992, respectively), this substitute is apparently no longer
manufactured. - [What ever their composition, pieces of the material
were usually cast so
air bubbles are common and
can be seen by hand lens examination; also, alabaster-mixes
calcium carbonate-mixes probably would have inferior hardnesses;
carbonate effervesces with dilute HCl.].
See bone on this list.
nuts - one of the
so-called palm nuts that resembles
ivory. Sometimes recorded as
coming from the "Far Eastern nut
palm," most of it has
apparently come from the "Caroline [Islands]
palm" (Metroxylon amicarum
(H. A. Wendlland) O. Beccari.). - [The nuts typically
light orange colored fluorescence under long-wave ultraviolet light; see also
"Vegetable ivory" on this list.].
*** Bakelite - trademark name for a group of synthetic resins and
plastics (q.v.) has been used
as an ivory
simulant (Shipley, 1951, p. 114).
specific gravity (1.25); gives odor of formaldehyde with
hot-needle test -- BUT, see statement about
this test in glossary.].
keratin plates that some whales (baleen whales) have instead
of teeth. This material has found use, chiefly on the basis of
being thermoplastic, for both
functional and decorative items; and example of the latter
its use as a veneer, especially on boxes. Sometimes
it is represented correctly as baleen; other times it is
incorrectly called whalebone or misrepresented as horn;
particularly in the past it was sometimes called whale ivory. -
[As keratin baleen is relatively easily distinguished from ivory by
examination; inferior hardness is conclusive.].
Black ivory - This is rhinoceros horn and is listed here only because
of its name. It does not resemble ivory.
Bone (including antlers) - This is
perhaps the most used simulant. Long bones of oxen, the hard bone
of large whales' mandibles (Webster,
1975, p. 526) are common so far as
such use. - [Bone exhibits Haversian
characteristic surficial patterns and has a
higher specific gravity. See
***Casein - "Amorphous plastic made from the albumen of milk by
treating milk with acid... [is] sometimes colored to imitate ...
(Shipley, 1951). - [inferior specific gravity (1.3-1.4); gives odor of
burned milk with needle-test -- BUT, see statement about
this test in glossary.].
as a simulant
according to Shipley (1951, p. 114). - [Information about "Cederon" has
not been found.].
***Celluloid (xylonite) - "Since
1865, when it was first invented by Alexander Parkes, celluloid has
been used as an excellent ivory substitute." (Shipley, 1951) With
addition of some filler to give it a higher specific gravity, this simulant
found widespread use for billiard balls. - [Most celluloid does not
have the grainlike characteristics typical of any of the natural
ivories; it has an inferior specific gravity except when modified by
adding some fillers; when a hot needle is put in contact with it, it
melt and may
emit a camphorlike odor -- BUT, see statement about
this test in glossary; also, it has not been manufactured
widely for such use since the 1930s.].
***Composite polymer - Sometimes called "ivoryite," this is ivory
dust plus a styrene resin (Espinoza and Mann,
1992, p.25). [Observation using hand lens suffices.].
Tagua nuts ?) - These "ivory nuts"
American ivory nut palm (Phytelephas
macrocarpa Ruiz &
Pavon, 1798) have been carved
"ivory" pieces, buttons etc. [inferior specific
gravity - 1.40-1.50; see also
"Vegetable ivory" on this list.].
Datolite - Scrimshaw-like carvings on datolite (note Datolite entry
in GEMROCKS file)
resemble, but so far as I know have never
been represented as ivory scrimshaw. -
[superior hardness (5 - 5½)].
***Diakon (also called perspex) - "a plastic used in Great Britain to
imitate ivory" (Shipley, 1951). - [inferior specific gravity (1.2)].
Doum palm nuts - These seeds from the east African doum palm (Hyphaene thebaica (L.) C. Martius) resemble ivory. - [inferior specific
gravity - 1.38 - 1.40; typically exhibit an
light orange fluorescence under long-wave ultraviolet light; see also "Vegetable
ivory" on this list.].
***Epoxy - This is used especially in the production of
imitation scrimshaw. - [Close examination suffices.].
***Faux ivory - some not otherwise identified, some identified as a
simulant such as
celluloid, has been used for such things as handles on diverse things
-- e.g., razors, shaving
brushes, and the hafts of carving sets. - [no need for
distinction so long as the faux adjective is used.].
- used as a simulant
according to Shipley (1951, p. 114). - [I have found no properties for
this recorded man-made material.].
ivory - "castings made in fine plaster of Paris tinted with
yellow ocre, with surface subsequently treated with a mixture of wax,
spermaciti or stearine." (Webster, 1975, p. 532) -[Close observation
suffices.]. See also Plaster of Paris on this list.
ivory - also marketed as "Genuine French Ivory" and "Ivoire
de Paris," and called by other names such as ivoride and
ivorine -- Items so-named are usually molded celluloid (q.v.).
***Galolith - casein plus polyester (Espinoza and Mann,
1992, p.25). [I presume that this is a misspelling of galalith.
If so, it gives a burned milk odor when subjected to a hot-needle
BUT, see statement
about this test in glossary.].
Horn - sometimes
used, but the appearance of most horn does not closely
resemble ivory. - [gives a burnt hairlike odor when penetrated with
hot-needle -- BUT, see statement about
this test in glossary. Also, see HORN
"ivory" (also called "Ho-ting" and "golden jade") - This "ivory," which
comes from the casque of the male Helmeted Hornbill (Buceros
(Forster, 1781)), a bird native to southeast Asia and some of the East
Indies, is keratin -- i.e. not ivory. - See HORNBILL "IVORY"
***Invelite - used as a simulant
according to Shipley (1951, p. 114) -- This is a plastic similar to
***Ivorine (also Ivoride) - name sometimes given diverse ivory
simulants, especially molded celluloid (q.v.).
*** Ivorite -
casein plus a hardener (Espinoza and Mann,
1992, p.25). [gives odor of burned milk with hot-needle test -- -- BUT, see statement about
this test in glossary.].
Ivory palm nuts - see Corozo, Tagua, and Vegetable ivory entries.
Ivory" - a polymer blend used for replicas of all sorts of
decorative items -- e.g.,
sculptural tusks -- marketed during the
last several years. - [brilliant
fluorescence under long-wave ultraviolet light].
***Micarta - Used as a simulant
(according to Shipley (1951, p. 114)), micarta is apparently a
bakelite- or epoxy-bonded laminate that
consists largely of either linen or lightweight paper. - [Close
***Mock ivory --
material so designated, but not otherwise identified, has been
use for such things as handles on safety razors and shaving brushes. - [Close examination of
the texture should suffice.]
***Phenolic resin -
Dekorit 203 and Dekorit V384 (Espinoza and Mann,
1992, p.25). - [inferior specific
gravity (< 1.5); gives
formaldehyde odor with hot-needle test
BUT, see statement
about this test in glossary.].
of Paris - Copies of ivory carvings have
been made by making molds of the originals and then producing casts
made of plaster of Paris; the results are sometimes referred to
as fictile (or fictive) ivory (q.v.).
[Cursory examination should
suffice; inferior hardness can be used.].
- Diverse plastics have been used. - [Most plastics
have lower specific
gravities, are sectile (whereas ivory tends to chip), exhibit more
brilliant fluorescent colors than ivory
ultraviolet light, and tend
to emit peculiar odors when heated (e.g.,
are only slightly penetrated by a heated needle.]
resin (?= polyresin) - Examples are Vigopas P71A and an unidentified
one that may or
may not be Vigopas ... which is described as "calcium-filled and
95% the weight and density of ivory, [and] the color of the resin
material closely approximates the mellow
tone of aged ivory." (Driggers, Mussey and Garvin,
1991, p. 8). - [ inferior specific
gravity (< 1.5)].
***Pyralin - "Ivory pyralin" is the name given an E.I.
DuPont DeNemours product (plastic) used for such things as backs of
brushes and hand mirror mountings, that dating back to the second
decade of the 20th century. - [Close examination suffices.].
***Reconstituted ivory - powdered and sintered
ivory has been molded into several diverse items that have been
marketed as carved ivory. - [Even cursory examination should
***Redmanol - trade name plastic
used as a simulant
according to Shipley (1951, p. 114). [apparently similar to bakelite (q.v.)
***Resins - See polyester resin on this list.
Shell - seldom used substitute. - [effervesces with dilute HCl;
exhibits a mottled dull blue fluorescence under long wave ultra violet
Tagua nuts (=Corozo
"vegetable ivory" from tagua palm tree (Phytelephas macrocarpa Ruiz &
Pavon, 1798). [typically exhibits an
light orange colored fluorescence under long-wave ultraviolet light; see
also "Vegetable ivory" on this list.]. These palms
grow in rain forests -- e.g., in
central and south America --
and have been cultivated with "limited success" in Florida (Pedersen,
"Vegetable ivory" - the generic term for seeds/nuts used as
"ivory" -- see Apple, Corozo, Doum and Tagua nuts entries on this
list. Along with those just mentioned, Weisblut (personal
communication, 2006) gives the following palms as sources of these nuts
and seeds used as "ivory": Alexander, American Oil , At , Australian
Black , Beccario , Betel (Areca) , Bismark , Forest Coconut , Foxtail ,
Ivory Nut , Jessenia , Manila , Miriti , Nubian , Pelana , Raphia , and
Stilt Root [palms]. But, all "are too small [about the size of
typical hen's egg] to be of use except ...
for small objects like thimbles [dice] and buttons..." (Anderson, 1980,
- ["Sulfuric acid applied to vegetable ivory causes an irreversible pink coloring
in about 12 minutes. [whereas] genuine ivory should not stain."
(Espinosa & Mann, 1992) -- However, Robert Weisblut (personal
communication, 2006) notes that he has tried to repeat this acid test
and did not get the stated results. Also, vegetable ivories have
lower specific gravity values (1.38 -
1.5); ]. Pedersen (2008) includes photographs of buttons
and carvings fashioned from vegetable ivory and mentions several other
uses, most of which she ties to historical eras. In addition, it seems
for the last several decades, vegetable ivories have been virtually
plastics and thus have had little use.
***Xylonite - alternative name of celluloid (q.v.).
REPLICAS: Some of the animals
which ivory has been obtained are frequently replicated in figurines (etc.) with brass, china, enameled
(cloisonné) copper, glass, rapoka stone
(=soapstone=steatite), resin (some indicated as "faux wood"), silver
and wood (acacia). Although
a large majority of these replicas depict elephants, I have also seen
silver replicas of wild boars (with their tusks quite evident) and
hippopotami (with their lower canines or incisors bared). Most are
objets d'art, but a few have been produced for use as Christmas tree
ornaments of such things as whimsical beats holding something or other
such as cookie jar. In addition, plush btown wooly mamoths with
white curved white tusks, apparently also fabric, and similarly
constituted elephant-like slippers
and pillows featuring stylistic representations of elephants are
features of the diverse ivories --
(paraphrased after information supplied by William R. Mann)
The way to determine if an object
is ivory, and if it is, what type of ivory it is, is to learn and
remember the gross
morphology of each kind of tooth and tusk -- i.e., the size, shape,
internal structure and grain pattern of each kind, so you can look for
traces of those features in, for example, a carving. Macrophotographs
photomicrographs and descriptions of distinctive features
of transverse sections of ivory derived from tusks and
given by Brown &
Moule (1977a) and Espinoza & Mann (1992) for the
hippopotamus, sperm whale, narwhal and boar/warthog,
. The following
macroscopic characteristics are noteworthy.
ELEPHANTS, MAMMOTHS & MASTODONS -The ivory
component of the incisor tusks of these animals have similar
characteristics that differ from those of all other ivories: Ivory from these
animals, and these animals only,
have Schreger lines so their presence is a diagnostic characteristic that
distinguishes theese ivories from ivories of other animals. The pattern of these lines (see Figure B), which is manifest
on transverse sections by a
pattern of intersecting arcs that roughly
"engine turnings" or herringbone patterns, also serves to
distinguish elephant ivory from mammoth ivory -- i.e., the angles pointing
toward the center of the tusks of elephants measure 100 degrees or
greater whereas the corresponding angles of mammoth and mastodon
less than 100 degrees. In addition, the tusks of these animals are large, slightly
nearly round in cross-section, hollow at the large end, have
roughly parallel wavy lines along their lengths and a nerve root that
from the end
of the hollow to
the tip of the tusk and looks like a
black round dot in cross-section.
WALRUS -The diagnostic characteristic of ivory from the
walrus' tusks is the presence of secondary dentine -- i.e., the nerve hollow is filled
with an ivory with a crystalline-like structure (see Figure E) that is
dentine (or osteodentine). In addition,
the tusks tend to be ovate (rather than round
like elephants' tusks) and many of them have a groove along their
side. No other ivory has this secondary dentine, so even if
are seen in a carving, it is walrus ivory.
kinds of teeth from these animals are used in ivory carvings (etc.) -- i.e., the upper and lower
canines and the incisors. The largest is the lower canine. Both canines
are markedly curved and triangular in shape; the upper canine has
a deep groove on one side so its cross-section has a heart-like shape.
The incisor is straighter
and has a roughly round cross-section. A nerve root that looks
like a “dash” or curved line, properly referred to as a “TIZ,” is
present. The grain pattern is extremely fine and consequently difficult
to see. Radial cracks are common.
WHALES -Two members of
the whale family provide commercially useful ivory -- the
Sperm Whale and the Narwhal. Sperm whales have up to
the lower jaw; each is 6 - 24 cm long,
weighs 900 -1000 grams, is cone-shaped, and
has a hollow end and a nerve root that goes to
the tip. The distinguishing characteristic is a clear line of
transition between the
dentine and cementum layers. The narwhal has a long incisor that
is best described as a long (1.8-2.5 meters), spirally twisted and
grooved ivory tusk, much of which is
hollow. No other tusk has
this appearance, and some portion of the twisted exterior is
always left to be seen; in addition, the grain
pattern can be seen to follow the shape of the hollow in cross-section, and radial cracks
PIG (Suidae) FAMILY - Ivory has been
harvested from three members of this family -- the boar, warthog, and
babirusa -- with that from the babirusa extremely rare. Boar
tusks are similar to hippopotamus tusks only smaller; the upper
and lower canines are roughly triangular in shape, and heavily curved.
be carved but most are used whole as handles or grips for cutlery,
bottle openers, corkscrews, etc.
Warthog canines are four sided with a groove on three of
the sides. The upper canines are highly curved, and often used
whole. They have a nerve root that in cross-section looks like a series
of dots and, like that of the hippopotamus, is referred to as a “TIZ”.
To review methods that may be used to
distinguish modern ivories from fossil ivories, see the recent article
by Yin et al. (2013), which is cited in the References. An
example of the reason why such distinctions may be important is, of
course, related to endangered species regulations -- e.g., the need for
knowing that a given specimen is mammoth rather than elephant
Dietrich © 2014
Last update: 27 January 2014
web page created by Emmett Mason