Ivory consists of dentine which is present in the tusks and teeth of animals and cross-section of different ivories gives you a different look into the inherent patterns. But though there are reputed dealers selling 100% original and legal ivory, an equal number of scammers sell fake ivory. So did you buy real or fake ivory artifacts?
There are numerous subtle differences that are visible to even untrained eyes, as many fake ivory products are crafted from reconstructed animal bone powder, but the color, texture and weight of the sculpture is very different. Dentine has little collagen and large amount of calcium phosphate which shows wear and tear over time. And ivory is sourced from wooly mammoths, elephants (now banned) as tusks while the teeth of wild boar, hippo, whales, and walrus are also considered as ivory. Some specific features that are consistent with natural ivory include high gloss with silky feel, inherent inter-sectional arches that are visible when holding it lengthwise and variations when you look down into it.
While plastic, bone powder, antlers and bone sculptures have a different weight and feel. To start with there are no Schreger lines. Bones have small channels as nerves and blood vessels go through it. It may not be visible to all but if you put light behind it, they appear as dots and dashes. While antlers have a darker color with honeycomb patterns all through the center, plastics on the other hand are lighter with an artificial look. However, you need to be conversant with ivory before you can make out the difference so it is bets to buy from top ivory traders and dealers as they provide you with authentic material at affordable prices. Check out genuine mammoth ivory art at http://www.mammothivory.info/
Just like wood, ivory can be cut with the same tools. From hacksaw with rough and course teeth to delicate jewelers saw and in case you need slabs; a band saw might be the right tool. For smooth cuts, it is best to have tools with more teeth and that requires low amount of sanding.
When you cut large tusk into sections, it is important to seal the ivory pores to prevent the ivory from cracking and drying out quickly. Most of the sculptors use white glue to seal the ends while the use of varnish and hot wax is not uncommon.
While cutting tusk sections, ensure that you don’t run the saw too fast through the ivory as it makes wavy cuts. Use a light hand with steady grip and speed to cut through ivory as it is very dense. After the ivory is cut, it needs to be maintained in good condition to be crafted in different forms, including sculptures, knife handles, scrimshaws and more.
The most important aspect is to retain the humidity within the ivory and carvers use mineral oil to prevent cracks and shrinkage. But this only works on thin slabs and sheets. The slabs and thin pieces are polished with mineral oil and then wiped with soft cotton cloth and zipped in plastic bags till further use. This ensures that no moisture escapes even after the ivory piece is sanded and polished, reducing the chances of cracks and shrinking.
As the lost moisture is replaced by oil and the luster is maintained as required. The key for storing ivory is about maintaining the moisture. Traditional Russian fossil ivory hunters soak the excavated tusks in water to help maintain the moisture before it is transported to carvers. See some of the most exquisite mammoth ivory carvings at http://www.mammothivory.info/
As per the latest figures by the International Union for Nature Conservation, mining of mammoth ivory tusks is a large scale business in Russia and Serbia. The tusks of extinct mammoths are pure enamel which is the reason that ivory has been able to survive the permafrost and harsh climatic changes.
However the fact that no animal is poached or killed to procure the mammoth ivory makes it an ethical material for use. It has gained prominence especially after the worldwide ban on elephant ivory and today, a huge range of complete tusk sculptures, jewelry, artifacts and sculptures are crafted.
From Hollywood stars to celebrities including Michelle Obama have seen sporting mammoth ivory jewelry at different occasions. The scarcity of the mammoth ivory tusks due to the mammoths being extinct has increased the pressure on the Russian antique ivory traders. Additionally, with limited ivory available for artists, the demand for fashionable mammoth ivory carvings is fast catching up all over the world but that is exactly the reason for the high prices. The process of locating and excavating a carcass of wooly mammoth in such extreme weather of Siberia is expensive. An average sculptor cannot work on mammoth ivory but requires precise skill and experience to work on fragile ivory. All of this compounds into the cost of the finished artifacts.
From pure ivory pieces, necklaces and jewellery to netsuke, tusk carvings, statues and scrimshaws, there is a wide range of legal ivory art pieces to collect and enjoy. Learn more about netsuke, carved tusks and intricately sculpted artifacts at www.mammothivory.info