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Elephant Ivory, Mammoth Ivory, and Schreger Lines

How to tell Elephant Ivory from Mammoth Ivory


Due to shortages in available Ivory for artists, other substance have always been sought. The trade in Elephant Ivory has nearly come to a complete stop. The master carvers of China and Japan have turned to alternative substances for the making of Snuff Bottles, Netsuke, and other works of Art. Mammoth Ivory is currently being excavated in areas of Northern Siberia. This is from Mammoth Elephants and Mastodons that live 10,000 to 2 million years ago. The frozen glaciers have preserved there remains in near perfect condition. Eventually, the supply of mammoth ivory will begin to run out and the prices will rise dramatically. This will make Mammoth Ivory pieces more expensive to buy and could also put the elephant in danger of poaching once again.

Elephant Ivory and Mammoth Ivory share a unique grain pattern known as Schreger Lines. These lines can help to identify if a piece is elephant or mammoth ivory. The test itself is actually only 100% accurate when viewing a complete section of the tusk and using the measurements on the outermost section of the tusk. Perhaps the best way to tell the difference is to know the sources you buy from and make sure that they know their sources. The whole tusks travel the world accompanied by inspection certificates that certify the material and subsequent certificates are issued for the final products carved from the tusks. Below are some pictures to help you identify your items.

If you are not sure what a Mammoth is: Click Here


Cross Section of Elephant Tusk

The Schreger lines in Elephant Ivory form angles greater than 115 degrees. If you look at the section nearest the center, you will see that the angle is much tighter than 115 degrees in this area.


Cross Section of Mammoth Tusk

The Schreger lines in Mammoth Ivory are much tighter throughout and the angle is less than 90 degrees when the tusk is cut straight through. Unfortunately, if the tusk is cut at an angle, this will make the lines appear more like elephant ivory. If it is under 90 it is definitely Mammoth Ivory. If it is over 90, it could be either and you need to look for other signs that may help determine the age.


A couple visible signs that can be used to identify some pieces of ivory are either age lines / cracks in elephant ivory, or discoloration from the outside (or bark) on mammoth ivory.

Age Lines in Elephant Ivory

Age lines as shown above do not detract from the value of a piece of ivory. Some even prefer pieces with age lines as it provides instant confirmation that the piece is old elephant ivory from long before the ban. The ivory in the picture above is about 150 years old.

Section of Mammoth Ivory with Outer Layer / Bark

Is it not uncommon for larger mammoth ivory carvings to still have portions of the darker bark on the piece. This adds character to the carving if used properly and quickly identifies the piece as Mammoth Ivory.

 

The Great Wall of China The Forbidden City
The Terracotta Army Along the Silk Road

Dragon & Phoenix ~ Silk Embroidery
Silk Embroidery
Gold Leaf Painted ~ 10 Inch Turnip Vase
Gold Leaf Lacquer
Pair of 10 Inch Closionne Vases
Cloisonne
Pair of Brass Foo Dogs
Brass & Bronze
Inside Painted Boxes

 

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