The intensely high demand for ivory and high prices has created a niche market for fake ivory. However, even though most people pay exorbitant prices to purchase ivory, most of the time they are unable to differentiate between real mammoth ivory and fake sculptures which mimic all of the nuances of real ivory to a layman. Here are some non-invasive methods to identify fakes and real ivory:
• Using a jeweler’s magnifying glass to studying the ivory sculpture, start looking for pores or little streaks of brown and if you find it, it is not ivory but bone.
• Another good method is listening to the sound by tapping on the sculpture. Plastic, bone and ivory make different sounds when tapped.
• The older the ivory is the more yellow hues it has. Take the saliva test. Lick your finger and rub it over the ‘antique ivory’ sculpture. If you find yellow or brown color on your finger, you can be sure that the ivory or any other material has been colored to make it look older than it really is. As saliva has a variety of chemicals, this test only works with it.
• The hot-pin test. Heat a pin and put it at the bottom of the sculpture. Plastic and other synthetic materials will get a dent but genuine ivory will not have any mark.
• You can take a look at inherent cross hatch pattern of mammoth ivory which is clearly visible at the bottom or at a point where it is smooth. These are known as Schreger Lines.
• Look for air-bubbles or tiny craters. If there are any visible, you can know that it is fake ivory made out of synthetic material that has been poured.