Historically this organic gem material, referred to as Ivory, came only from elephant tusks. Since elephants have become a protected species and the sale of elephant ivory has been outlawed, most of the ivory we see being used in jewelry today comes from fossilized sources along with hippopotamus, narwhal, sea lion, and wild boars teeth.

Ivory exhibits a distinctive graining that is referred to as the "engine turned effect." This helps to distinguish ivory from bone. As ivory ages in changes from its original white color to yellowish and eventually it acquires a brownish patina. Valued for its ability to be carved, many fine ivory carving traditions existed throughout the world. Netsukes in Japan, Victorian carvings, the Erbach school in Germany, and in Russia they have been carving mammoth and walrus ivory for centuries.

Carved Ivory Cross, Circa 1850. Photo Courtesy of Lang Antiques
Gemological information for ivory
Color White, creamy, yellowish
Crystal Structure Amorph
Refractive Index 1.54-1.56
Durability May scratch
Hardness 2.25-2.75
Treatments Bleaching
Similar stones Plastics, Bone
Country of origin Asia, Africa
Ivory care
Ultrasonic cleaning Not safe
Steam cleaning Not safe
Warm soapy water Safe
Chemical attack Avoid
Light sensitivity Stable

Online G&G articles on ivory