Friday, August 27, 2010

Vintage Jewelry Word of the Week - Ivory

There are so many materials out there in the retail world which are labeled ivory. Some just refer to the color and some refer, either truthfully or not, to the material.

Ivory a smooth grained material which is made from the tusks of elephants, walruses and other animals with tusks. It is creamy white in color, usually with a cross hatching type of grain. It is a natural material. Not ivory will show this cross hatch grain, depending on the way that it has been cut, but it will always have a prominent grain mark of some sort.

Beware though, the product may be called ivory, when it is, in fact, bone - another natural material with a similar look.

Although bone has a similar look, it does not have the telltale ivory cross hatch grain. The photo shown here is an example of the ivory grain which has been magnified. The grain line in bone is more often a series of parallel lines. Bone also often has pits and other imperfections which are not usually apparent in ivory pieces. The following photo is a good example which shows the grain of bone as well as the pits and imperfections often found in it.


Ivory is highly collectible and the import of it into the USA has been banned since mid June 1989. Items labeled pre-ban ivory are those which were made and imported into the USA earlier than this period.

One way to determine if the item is real ivory is the hot pin test. BEWARE: if your item is not ivory, you will damage it. True ivory is virtually impenetrable with heat. Take a large pin or needed and heat the pin until it is red hot. Poke your item somewhere that will not show. If it is real ivory it will not penetrate, but will only leave a tiny mark. Bone is also resistant to heat but not as much as ivory, so if your mark is much larger it is more likely bone. (also ivory smells like burning teeth and bone has much less of a smell.

Here are a few examples of some pre-ban ivory jewelry items.




Visit Vintage Jewelry Lane for more details and prices on ivory jewelry.

1 comment:

  1. This is such a great resource blog entry. The crosshatch grain visual is especially helpful. I've used that method for years. I'd also noticed the porous, pittedness often in bone items, but never saw a picture to back up my instincts on that.
    Thank you for taking the time to post this great education on ivory.

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