Various Types of Ivory from Animals

What comes to your mind when you hear the word ivory? More often than not, people associate the term with the color that resembles white. But did you know that the real ivory refers to the tusks of animals such as mammoths and elephants? To give you a general overview of this prized organic material, here is a list of the different types of ivory.

1. Walrus ivory

The upper canines of walrus, which measure 2 feet long, are a source of ivory. Used mainly to create small items, walrus ivory is composed of an external dentin layer, an internal dentin layer, and a smooth cementum layer.

2. Elephant ivory

It is the most common of all the sources of ivory. Elephant ivory includes not only those from elephants, but also from mastodons and mammoths. It can be cut thinly to create piano keys and carved easily in all directions. Also, ivory from elephant tusks are usually stained, painted, gilded, or dyed.

Instead of an enamel coating (which is found in human teeth), elephant tusks are covered with a dense cementum layer, which is often called the rind or the bark. Among the distinct features of an elephant ivory are the fine lines that intersect and form a diamond shape between them. These lines are called the Lines of Retzius.

3. Vegetable ivory

Sourced from the inner seed of the ivory palm in South America, vegetable ivory is considered a good alternative to the expensive and almost depleting elephant ivory. The seeds of the ivory palm are solid and as big as an egg from a small chicken. Vegetable ivory, which is made of 100 percent cellulose, is used to create small objects such as buttons and dice. This type of ivory is smooth, cheap, and can absorb dyes easily.

4. Sperm whale ivory

Like the walrus ivory, the ivory from sperm whales has two layers, one of which has a bigger interior layer. To get an ivory, 30 teeth of the sperm whale are used.

5. Hornbill ivory

This ivory comes from the casque of the helmeted hornbill in the East Indies. Fairly hard and textured closely, the hornbill ivory is a material for making small items such as brooches and buckles.

6. Hippopotamus ivory

Next to elephant ivory, the hippopotamus ivory is the second most popular ivory. What makes hippopotamus ivory different from elephant ivory is its thick enamel coating. Aside from that, the former is more difficult to carve, denser, and has a finer grain than the latter. It also takes a longer time for a hippopotamus ivory to break down than elephant ivory. Hippopotamus ivory comes from the incisors and lower canines of the hippopotamus. This type of ivory is typically used for making flat objects such as inlays and buttons.

7. Synthetic ivories

There are a lot of alternatives used in place of real ivory: celluloid, casein, ivorine, ivoride, French ivory, and genuine French ivory, among others.

These seven types of ivory are among the most commonly used in creating different items.

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