What is Ivory? What are the properties of ivory?

What is Ivory?

Ivory is a valuable material obtained mainly from the large, hard and white extensions of elephant tusks. However, the teeth of some cetaceans can also be considered ivory. This material has been used for centuries in the production of works of art, musical instruments, decorative objects and various handicrafts. Ivory has been in high demand throughout history, especially with its dense and smooth structure, good for carving and polishing, and elegant white tones.

Ivory Usage Areas

Today, ivory trade has brought about serious ethical and environmental concerns. It has led to poaching of elephants, causing them to face the danger of extinction. This situation has led to the ivory trade being banned in many countries and protected by international agreements. Here are the most common uses:

  1. Artworks:
    • It is used in sculpture, especially on small-sized objects that require detailed workmanship.
    • Reliefs, religious figures and ornaments made of ivory have been valued throughout history.
  2. Musical instruments:
    • It was used to make piano keys, but has now been replaced by more sustainable materials.
    • It was preferred for decorative elements and fine workmanship in some traditional musical instruments.
  3. Decorative Objects and Jewelry:
    • Ivory is used in jewelry making, especially finely carved necklaces and bracelets.
    • It has been evaluated as an aesthetic material in home decoration products such as vases, lampshades and masterpiece decorations.
  4. Personal Items:
    • In the past, it was used to make daily use items such as combs, ornamental boxes and buttons.
  5. Game Items:
    • It is used to make dice and game pieces for chess sets and other games.
  6. Religious and Cultural Objects:
    • Ivory was seen as a sacred material for objects used in religious ceremonies and temple decorations.

Importance and Characteristics of Ivory

  1. Natural beauty:
    • Ivory is known for its natural whiteness and unique grain patterns. These patterns, which yellow over time, make each piece of ivory unique.
  2. Machinability:
    • Thanks to its easily workable structure, ivory has been frequently used in detailed carvings and works of art requiring fine workmanship.
  3. Durability:
    • Ivory is a hard and durable material and can maintain its form for many years.
  4. Historical and Cultural Value:
    • Since ancient times, ivory has been considered a symbol of wealth and magnificence.

History and Environmental Impacts of the Ivory Trade

Ivory has historically been seen as a valuable and prestigious material, but this has led to major environmental and ethical problems. It has led to hunting and severe decline in elephant populations. Many countries internationally have banned the ivory trade in order to protect elephant populations and prevent poaching. Agreements such as CITES (International Convention on Endangered Species in International Trade) were created to regulate the ivory trade and protect wildlife.

Ivory and Alternative Materials Today

Today, the use of ivory has greatly decreased and has been replaced by plastics, resins and other sustainable materials that give the appearance of ivory. These alternatives both offer an ivory-like aesthetic and contribute to the preservation of biodiversity.


Ivory has been a part of human history for centuries and has found a wide range of uses, from works of art to musical instruments, thanks to its aesthetic beauty, malleability and durability. However, the truth behind this valuable material is; It also brings with it serious environmental and ethical issues such as endangered species, illegal hunting and loss of biodiversity. Today, the strict control of the ivory trade and the choice of alternative materials are important steps taken against these problems.

In addition to being a unique gift that nature offers us, ivory also reminds us of humanity’s responsibility to live in harmony with nature. Conservation and sustainable use of this natural resource means preserving both a natural and cultural heritage for future generations. The ivory story makes us question how valuable we find nature and how we should protect it; Because each piece of ivory points to a creature that has lost its value and reminds us of the vital importance of protecting nature.

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