Frequently Asked Questions about Ivory: What You Need to Know


What comes to your mind when you hear the word ivory? You might be thinking about the soap or the color, but real ivory is more than that. To know more about this beautiful and useful material, here are some of the frequently asked questions about ivory that might be interesting to you.

What Exactly is Ivory?

Ivory refers to the canines and tusks that are made up of an inner pulp cavity. This cavity is covered by dentin, which consists of collagen and connective tissues. The dentin is coated by a cementum layer, most of which are covered by an extra layer of enamel. It is dentine thats used as a major component in ivory for inlays, carvings, and other items.

What are the Sources of Ivory?

Strictly speaking, real ivory comes from the tusks of Asian and African elephants as well as mammoths. In general terms, large teeth and tusks from boars, hippos, walruses, and sperm whales are considered ivories. However, some people do not regard them as real ivories.

Some forms of ivory are known as imitation or faux ivory. They come from various sources such as casein, celluloid, and inner seeds of the Tagua palm tree.

Is Ivory an Organic Material?

Ivory is both an organic and inorganic substance. The organic components of ivory are the collagen proteins, which work to repair and build tissues. On the other hand, the inorganic components are the mineralized tissues, which make ivory durable and hard.

How Do Ivory Types Differ?

To tell the difference between one type of ivory and another, it is important to understand the structure of natural ivory. Dentin has very small nerve canals that spread out to the cementum layer. These nerve canals look like irregular lines when the ivory has been carved and polished. How these lines are arranged vary among ivories, and they are used to determine the source of ivory. Aside from the lines, other characteristics like the dentin layer help one recognize the differences. For example, the so-called Lines of Schreger is exclusive only to the dentin of elephants and mammoths.

What is the Difference Between Genuine and Synthetic Ivories?

Synthetic ivory lacks irregular nerve canal lines. Good imitations have lines, but they follow a regular pattern. A foolproof method to find out if an ivory item is authentic or synthetic is through a UV light. Under UV light, true ivory will emit bright blue light, while synthetic ivory emits dull blue light.

What Happens to Ivory as It Ages?

In reaction to the fluctuating temperature and weather conditions, ivory easily absorbs and gives out moisture. This results in the swelling and shrinking of ivory. Worse, it may give in to warping or cracking. That is why it is important to place ivory in an area where humidity is low and the temperature does not quickly change. Ivory is also prone to staining over time.
These frequently asked questions about ivory gives ivory lovers more information they should learn about the characteristics and origin of ivory, as well as how to keep its beauty for a long time.


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