Ivory – Colors, Shapes and Sizes

Ivory is one of the most well-known materials that are used in high quality precious jewelry. It should be noted that Ivory is not a gemstone or a mineral from rock, it is an organic mineral created by certain mammals with specific types of characteristics. Following is some information on the different colors, shapes and sizes that Ivory is available in.

Ivory usually comes in two colors, white and whitish yellow, many people usually call it off white. The whiter the Ivory, usually the higher the price, usually Ivory can turn a tinge of yellow if it is an older piece, but for the most part, it is extremely exquisite and beautiful.

Ivory is very soft compared to hard gemstones and can be sculpted with just a steal knife, however it is very stable, so as long as you care for it properly it won’t shatter or fracture. The size of Ivory is really up to the animal that creates it. Usually the biggest specimens of Ivory come from bull Elephants. However, most of the time, select pieces such as pianos and statues are made from a few pieces of Ivory and not just one distinct piece.

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How and Where is Ivory Formed and Found?

Ivory is an opaque white or yellowish white substance that is not a gemstone or mineral, it is actually organic in nature. Sometimes called an organic mineral, Ivory is extremely valuable and very attractive to the sight and to the touch. Ivory is usually garnered from elephants, walrus’s, extinct fossilized mammoths and hippos. It has been used to create ornamental jewelry, statues, billiard balls, bagpipes, buttons and piano keys.

The chemical structure of Ivory is consistent whether it comes from an elephant or hippo or any animal for that matter. While most people associate Ivory with elephants, the truth of the matter is that it can come from a variety of different mammals.

Ivory is created as a tooth or tusks of the above mammals; a tusk is another name for a tooth that sticks outside the mouth. Teeth include the structure of pulp cavity, dentine, enamel and cementum. The Ivory that is usually carved and used for jewelry purposes is mostly that of Dentine.

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The Uses of Ivory

Most Ivory throughout the ages was used as ornamental jewelry such as beads, cameos, pendants, etc. Beside jewelry that is worn, items were created out of Ivory, most notably statues. Ivory was also used to create piano keys which was a major use of Ivory during the last 300 years.

Today, Ivory is no longer cultivated from living mammals. There has been a world ban on Ivory since 1989, this has been put into effect due to the fact that poaches have practically killed almost all the elephants due to their beautiful Ivory. It is stated that in 40 years, 97% of the 300,000 elephants in certain African countries were slaughtered for their Ivory production. Today, there are plenty of synthetic types of Ivory that have the same look and feel of traditional Ivory teeth and tusks.

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Ivory – The History and Origins

Ivory is not a gemstone or mineral per say, but usually regarded as an organic mineral. Ivory comes from the teeth and tusks of mammals. Usually Ivory is associated with just elephant tusks and teeth, however other animals such as hippo’s and walruses also produce Ivory that is exactly similar in composition.

Ivory is made from calcite. The part of the tusk that is normally used is called the pulp, around the pulp is Dentine. Dentine is the part of the Ivory that is most valued and usually used for ornamental jewelry, piano keys and to make other fine objects.

However, Ivory jewelry is quite beautiful and can be used to create many items that are all shapes and sizes from beads, to statures, to charms and pendants, etc. Today, you can purchase synthetic Ivory that looks very similar and has a similar feel to traditional Ivory for much less the cost of true Ivory. For instance, these materials are used for pianos and other objects where Ivory was traditionally used for.

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