Have you ever thought about buying a piece of Alaskan ivory? Has something stopped you?
As you are probably aware, because of the tragic slaughter of thousands of elephants for their tusks, national and international trade in the ivory of threatened species such as African or Asian elephants is now illegal, as well it should be. But what about Alaskan ivory? Because it is often fossilized and does not come from an endangered species, ivory used in Alaska is quite legal, and very much a part of Alaskan Native art and culture.
When you hold a piece of fossilized ivory in your hand, let your imagination take you back through the ages to the time when that ivory existed as part of an ancient animal. Can you imagine its prehistoric world? Close your eyes and let the piece float in your mind. What do you feel and see? It is awe-inspiring to try to comprehend the age of the piece you are holding.
Ivory has had a wide variety of uses since ancient times. Prior to the introduction of plastics, ivory was made into cutlery, billiard balls, piano keys, Scottish bagpipes, buttons, false teeth, fans and dominoes, as well as jewelry and simple to elaborate carvings. The ancient Irish decorated their sword hilts with ivory from whale teeth. The Chinese valued elephant ivory for both art and utilitarian objects. Early whalers scratched designs on sperm whale teeth, then rubbed India ink into the scratches, a process known as scrimshaw. In modern times, artists have used scrimshaw to create some beautiful pieces, such as tusks displaying a complete scene from Alaskan life, or a pendant with an elaborate flower or animal scratched into its surface. Continue reading