What is Ivory?
Technically speaking, ivory can be found in any animals that have teeth, because ivory is composed of dentine which is a substance found in teeth. Actually, dentine is one of the four major components of a human tooth. Ivory however, is commonly used to denote the tusks derived from large animals like hippos or walruses, but more specifically from the elephant. These tusks were used to make scores of decorative and luxury items, which caused a dramatic decline in elephant populations during its production heyday. Today, the harvesting of ivory is already banned in many areas with some countries allowing a heavily restricted trade on ivory. But because of its still-high value, there are still illegal sporadic killings of elephants so that their ivory tusks can be sold in the black market.
Some of the most common artifacts that has ivory as its material include jewelry boxes, combs, works of art, religious idols, and dagger handles. Ivory was particularly sought after because of its properties: it is hard, its grains are closely linked together, it’s easy to carve and it takes on coloring very well.
There is a more sustainable way of making ‘ivory’ carvings these days, using the seed of the tagua or vegetable ivory. The seed has similar properties to real ivory, however the small size limits the objects that it can be used for in carving.