On 2008 10 14 I accessed GoogleTM search engine and typed the search term "ivory" resulting in more than 73 million hits. Most have noting to do with the ivory material of interest to us.

There is among them: Ivory brand soap, persons named Ivory, music and books containing the word ivory, and so forth. GoogleTM offered these specific search categories: ivory for sale | ivory gifts | ivory jewelry | ivory lyrics | ivory prices } ivory identification | ivory trade.

This page is devoted to the subject of ivory as a material.


Main Entry: ivo·ry
Pronunciation: \iv-re, i-v?-re\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English ivorie, from Anglo-French ivoire, ivurie, from Latin eboreus of ivory, from ebor-, ebur ivory, from Egyptian ??b, ??bw elephant, ivory Date: 13th century
1 a: the hard creamy-white modified dentine that composes the tusks of a tusked mammal (as an elephant, walrus, or narwhal)
 b: a tusk that yields ivory
2: a variable color averaging a pale yellow
3slang : tooth
4: something (as a piano key) made of ivory or of a similar substance
source = http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ivory

An ivory decoration
Etymology - From Old French yvoire (modern ivoire), from Latin ebur (“‘ivory’”), related to Egyptian Abw, Coptic ebou ‘elephant’.
PronunciationIPA: /'a?v?ri/, SAMPA: /"aIv(@)ri/
Hyphenation: i?vo?ry
NounSingular: ivory

The hard white form of dentine which forms the tusks of elephants, walruses and other animals. (color) A creamy white colour, the colour of ivory.

Translations material [Romanized shown]

Arabic: (‘aj) m.
Armenian: (p'goskr)
Breton: olifant m., ivor m.
Chinese: (xiŕngyá)
Czech: slonovina cs(cs) f.
Croatian: slňnovaca hr(hr) f.
Danish: elfenben da(da) n.
Dutch: ivoor nl(nl) n.
Finnish: norsunluu fi(fi)
French: ivoire fr(fr) m.
German: Elfenbein de(de) n.
Indonesian + Malay: gading
Interlingua: ebore
Italian: avorio it(it) m.
Japanese: (zoge)
Korean: (sang-a)
Latin: ebur la(la) n.
Old English: elpendban ang(ang) n.

Persian: (âj)
Polish: kosc sloniowa pl(pl) f.
Portuguese: marfim pt(pt) m.
Russian: (slonóvaja kost’) f.
Serbian: slonovaca sr(sr) f.
Slovene: slonovina sl(sl) f.
Spanish: marfil es(es) m.
Swedish: elfenben sv(sv) n.
Volapük: vior
source = wiktionary - http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ivory

Elephant Tusk Ivory:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Elephant and mammoth tusk ivory comes from the two modified upper incisors of extant and extinct members of the same order (Proboscidea). Mammoths are believed to have been extinct for 10,000 years. Because of the geographical range in Alaska and Siberia, Mammuthus primigenius tusks have been well preserved. Therefore, Mammuthus primigenius is the only extinct Proboscidian which consistently provides high quality, carvable ivory.

An African elephant tusk can grow to 3.5 meters in length. Enamel is only present in the tusk tip in young animals. It is soon worn off and not replaced. Whole cross-sections of proboscidean tusks are rounded or oval. Dentine composes 95% of the tusk and will sometimes display broad concentric bands. Cementum, which can be thick in extinct genera, covers the outside of the tusk. Cementum can present a layered appearance, particularly in mammoth.

Above image is a cross section of mammoth tusk ivory. The photo was posted at wikimedia commons by Hannes Grobe who released it for use under the Creative Commons License. I have deleted the textured background in the original to provide sharper focus.

Here are two views of a smallish elephant tusk. It measures 29 inches along the curve, 2 5/8 diameter, and weighs 5 1/2 lbs. It, along with other ivory items shown on this page, is in my personal collection. I purchased it from Boone Trading Co. in 1990 at a cost of $540. It was U.S. legal having been in the country prior to CITES restrictions. However, I will not purchase any additional elephant ivory form any source in the future.

The tusk was sold for use by a carver. I bought it simply to have it. At right you can see the hollow end of the tooth which was filled with pulp when it was growing in a live animal.

Walrus Ivory:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Walrus tusk ivory comes from two modified upper canines. The tusks of a Pacific walrus may attain a length of one meter. Walrus teeth are also commercially carved and traded. The average walrus tooth has a rounded, irregular peg shape and is approximately 5cm in length.

The tip of a walrus tusk has an enamel coating which is worn away during the animal's youth. Fine longitudinal cracks, which appear as radial cracks in cross-section, originate in the cementum and penetrate the dentine. These cracks can be seen throughout the length of the tusk. Whole cross-sections of walrus tusks are generally oval with widely spaced indentations. The dentine is composed of two types: primary dentine and secondary dentine (often called osteodentine). Primary dentine has a classical ivory appearance. Secondary dentine looks marble or oatmeal-like.

Walrus ivory carving and engraving has been an important folk art for people of the Arctic since prehistoric times. The Inuit (Inupiaq and Yupik) of Greenland and North America and the Chukchi and Koryak of Russia. The Chukchi and Bering Sea Yupik in particular continue to produce ivory. During Soviet times, several walrus carving collectives were established in villages in Chukotka, notably Uelen. International trade is, however, somewhat restricted by the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).
Above photo shows tusked walruses. Photo is in public domain; found at wikipedia, originated by US Fish & Wildlife Service.

This is a replica of scrimshaw on tooth ivory. It is rendered by engraving and inking the lines. It measures 150mm long x 50mm high x 30mm thick. Author's collection.

Warthog Ivory:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The warthog or common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus, "African Lens-Pig") is a wild member of the pig family that lives in Africa. The common name comes from the four large wart-like protrusions found on the head of the warthog, which serve the purpose of defense when males fight. They are the only widely recognised species in their genus, though some authors divide them into two species. On that classification, P. africanus is the common (or northern) warthog and P. aethiopicus is the desert warthog, also known as the Cape or Somali warthog.
Not mentioned in the wikipedia articles about ivory is the wild boar common in America and Europe. These animals have curved tusks similar to the warthog.
Above photo shows a key fob carved from warthog tooth from this author's collection. Tooth measures 90mm along curve.

Vegetable Ivory:

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Vegetable ivory, also known as corozo, is a name used for the tagua nut in the South American rainforest. When dried out, it can be carved as an ivory replica. Both humanitarians and environmentalists can appreciate it, for its use stimulates the economies in South America, provides an alternative to cutting down rainforests for farming, and prevents elephants from being killed for the ivory in their tusks.

The ivory-nut palm, Phytelephas aequatorialis, is one plant that can be harvested for vegetable ivory. It is often used for beads, buttons, and jewelry, and can be dyed. Phytelephas macrocarpa, another species in the Phytelephas genus, is also used for this purpose. More recently, palm ivory has been used to make bagpipes.

The tagua nut is an extremely hard nut that comes from the ivory-nut palm. Its endosperm can be carved and polished like ivory, making it a botanical alternative to elephant ivory and giving rise to the name "vegetable ivory." Before carving, the nut is covered with a brown, flaky skin and shaped like a small avocado. Tagua nuts can be found in the rainforest, typically on the ground, where their outer skin is eaten by the various animals populating the region.

The nuts' diameter ranges roughly from 4-8 cm in diameter. Often, these nuts are used for carvings in rings and other figurines as microenterprises for third world countries in South America.
This figure was carved from a tagua nut and closely resembles ivory. From the author's collection. Measures 56mm high x 22mm wide x 36mm long. Size limits the usefulness of tagua for commercial carvers.

Synthetic & Ivory Substitutes:

[By web host]

The worldwide demand for art pieces made from ivory remains unabated. It is sold on black markets at fantastic prices and smuggled into countries for sale to those who can afford it. Meanwhile, creative craftsmen and entrepreneurs in Asia have come up with numerous ways to legally and [hopefully] ethically cash in on the desire to own beautiful ivory pieces.

Synthetics ... Plastic is probably first and foremost among the replacement materials for ivory. While it has none of the cachet of carved ivory, it can be molded to replicate virtually any object otherwise made from true ivory. Modern plastics chemistry is able to combine resins and polymers with other materials and closely simulate ivory in every respect.

Bone ... Large white or ivory colored or bleached bones have become a significant medium for carving. Favored of course are large bones from animals such as whales and common cattle. Large individual bones are carved with power tools rather than hand tools so more finished goods can be produced. Smaller bones are ground into powder and mixed with binders to make a substance which appears to be ivory and functions very much like the real thing.

Teeth ... Other than the incisors of walruses, elephants and mammoths, there are animals whose teeth are large enough to be useful for carving art objects. The hippopotamus is one example. The narwhal's long single tusk is another. Whale teeth and fossil teeth from prehistoric sea creatures are also used.
This handsome figure could easily pass for ivory if one did not know better. It is resin, mixed with powdered bone then cast in a mold and refined by hand. See up close it is exquisite. The narrow width is 117mm [4 5/8"], the length is 170mm [6 5/8"] and the height is 197mm [7 3/4"]. The dimensions alone would tell you it is not elephant ivory. The standing man is a separate piece bonded to the elephant and rider. No one these days has access to any tusk with a five inch diameter unless it is fossil mammoth ivory. The carving would place this piece in the range of thousands of dollars instead of the $225 it cost when acquired in 1994.

The following are outstanding sources of ivory and related materials for art carving. The web urls were valid in October 2008. If you try to use the link and receive a page not found error, try a search engine on the company name.

Boone Trading Co, Brinnon WA
Kowak Ivory [fossil]
Canadian Ivory Inc

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All contents ©2008 Wayne Hepburn unless otherwise noted. Permission is granted to use contents in non-commercial, not for profit, applications and for "fair use" excerpts as provided in current International Copyright Law. No content from this site may be sold by anyone except copyright owner.