Ivory and amber do not belong to the world of stones, as they are organic materials. But, in the world of jewels, they are still considered precious materials on the same level as coral or mother-of-pearl and are popular with goldsmiths.
Ivory, the Pure Color of Africa
Ivory is an organic material that is usually crafted from elephant tusks. Fossilized Siberian mammoth tusks are also used, as are the teeth or horns of rhinoceros, hippopotamuses, sperm whales, walrus, and narwhals. The twisted horn of the narwhal (which can reach seven to ten feet in length) has a long history of legend associated with it and has appeared in numerous curiosity cabinets. During the middle Ages, it was believed to be the horn of the unicorn.
Ivory was highly valued in Europe in the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. In France, in the town of Dieppe, sailors who spent the winter on land created a specialty, sculpting ivory to look like fine lace. This craft was also common in Asia where artisans crafted masterpieces’, such as infinity rings and moving balls that are fitted one inside the other and sculpted directly on the surface of the tusk.
Bone, sometimes used instead of ivory, has inconsistent and intermittent streaks. Other imitations made from plastic are also veined. Patterns in the imitations are straight and more regular. Ivory is heavy and dense to the touch. Imitations are lighter.
COLOR AND PATINA
At first, ivory is while with creamy or blond tones. Over time, it gains a patina and takes on the color of pale tea.
In the pat, ivory was colored with natural products, such as saffron, verdigris, wood of Campeche trees, and oak apple (a plant parasite). Green, pink, crimson, golden yellow, or black created varying clarity for the reliefs, especially when the ivory was sculpted.
Even more surprising, during the Chinese Imperial period where patinated ivory was prized young mothers who nursed their babies were asked to carry ivory against their breasts, as the laic acid gives it a special tint!
On the other hand, it is more difficult to whiten ivory once it has become yellow. Some old-fashioned recipes suggest soaking it in untreated milk or buttermilk. Others advise rubbing it with a lemon wedge or with a cloth soaked in hydrogen peroxide. None of these methods is advised for older, more beautiful pieces.
Ivory should never be dried under the sun.
IT LOOKS LIKE IVORY!
Some jewelry is made from dyed bone. At the end of the nineteenth century, jewelry was made from Ivoirians, a material composed of the powder from ivory debris that was finely ground and mixed. Jewelry, including necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, made from Bakelite (synthetic resin), which may be carved, are very interesting but are not made from ivory. Created during the 1920s and 1930s and sometimes enhanced with silver or colored Bakelite, they were in style during the art deco period and eventually became collectors' items.
Since 1989, international trade in elephant ivory has been forbidden. A number of natural imitations have been created to help save the lives of the elephants in Africa.
Some of these imitations are called "vegetable ivory." This is made from corozo, the inner seed of the South American ivory palm tree, which can be worked and sculpted like ivory, taking on its color and look. While vegetable ivory may yellow, it retains a matte finish and is very porous. However, it may never be polished like ivory since it does not have the same dense grain.
Real ivory can be distinguished by its fine, sinuous, and parallel streaks that appear on the surface.
Do not travel with your ivory
When traveling abroad, it is preferable to leave all your ivory jewelry at home. Otherwise, you will need to take certificates of authenticity proving that you are carrying antique pieces.
IVORY AROUND THE WORLD
Some customs officials are inflexible. They will seize any object made from ivory and will assess heavy fines on the owner. This applies especially in the United States and in India.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Like all organic materials, ivory is fragile.
It is particularly sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity in the air. Movements from hot to cold, along with dry air, can result in Splits or at least may cause cracking.
It is thus not advisable to place the jewelry on a mantle. where the coolness of the marble may affect it nor near a radiator where the heat may also present a risk factor.
Cracks sometimes appear over time, leaving a fine, dark crackling appearance on the surface of the object. Splits in the material are irreparable, particularly since artisans specializing in ivory work are becoming rare.
Amber, Tear of Resin from Another Age
Amber is an organic material, but it is not at all animal in origin; it comes from the fossilized resin of conifers (pinus succinifera), which appeared on the earth millions of years ago. Fossilized amber should not be confused with the odorous substance by the same name used by perfumers, which is extracted from the solidified secretions of the sperm whale and gathered along the shoreline. According to Greek myth, amber was born from the tears of the daughters of the sun. In a Christian legend, amber was said to have come from the tears of trees that were condemned to disappear after the flood.
In ancient times, the Greeks called amber electron, because ft could produce an electric charge. When it is rubbed against a piece of cloth, for example, it produces a charge of negative electricity that attracts light objects’, such as a piece of paper. A condu6tor of current, amber has been the subject of all sorts of superstition, even more than coral or carnelian. Many rosary beads and amulets were supposed to get rid of the wearer's discontentment and bad thoughts. They were also said to predict bad luck by changing color.
In Muslim countries, where amber is often used to make both jewelry and remedies, amber has preventative qualities and is believed to offer protection from the evil eye.
A long time ago, babies were given amber bead necklaces to wear. It was thought that they would prevent irritations and reduce redness in the folds of the neck, ease teething pains, and protect from convulsions as well as sore throats.
A FASCINATING MATERIAL
Amber can be transparent, translucent, or even opaque. It comes in various shades of yellow: pale yellow, blond honey, golden, orange yellow, brownish red, or even dark red. In China, slightly cloudy, green amber is valued. Pieces of amber encapsulating fragments of animals have given rise to fanciful imaginings. Dreamers enamored with the advancement of science have be-en hopeful that they could revive certain species from DNA contained inside. Opaque amber has often been cut into rounds, while translucent amber is more often faceted to refle6t the light. The most beautiful faceted jewels date from the Second Empire and the beginning of the twentieth century.
IT LOOKS LIKE AMBER!
This natural resin has been copied since long ago with the resin from copal (tropical trees) or with colored plastic. In the 1930s, Bakelite was used. Professionals authenticate amber with a heated needle. If the material is copal or plastic, the needle will create a black hole, and a smell of burning will be emitted. If it is made from copal, ether will also create a change in the material: upon contact, the resin will appear to gel.
As with coral, the price should be an indication. In North Africa, for example, beware of cheaper jewels sold as amber.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Amber is a fairly fragile material, which breaks and loses its glow when it falls on a hard surface. You can try to touch up the broken parts by sanding them lightly. Amber does not do well in a dry atmosphere and should be worn often to maintain its luster. It should be rubbed with a cloth dipped in light almond or olive oil, and then polished with a dry cloth. This is a good recipe for jewelry that appears to be covered in milky spots.
Writer - Laura Fronty