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Material derived from the tusks and teeth of animals / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Ivory is a hard, white material from the tusks (traditionally from elephants) and teeth of animals, that consists mainly of dentine, one of the physical structures of teeth and tusks. The chemical structure of the teeth and tusks of mammals is the same, regardless of the species of origin, but ivory contains structures of mineralised collagen.[1] The trade in certain teeth and tusks other than elephant is well established and widespread; therefore, "ivory" can correctly be used to describe any mammalian teeth or tusks of commercial interest which are large enough to be carved or scrimshawed.[2]

11th-century Italian carved elephant tusk, Louvre.
Cylindrical ivory casket, Siculo-Arabic, Hunt Museum.

Besides natural ivory, ivory can also be produced synthetically,[3][4][5][6][7] hence (unlike natural ivory) not requiring the retrieval of the material from animals. Tagua nuts can also be carved like ivory.[8]

The trade of finished goods of ivory products has its origins in the Indus Valley. Ivory is a main product that is seen in abundance and was used for trading in Harappan civilization. Finished ivory products that were seen in Harappan sites include kohl sticks, pins, awls, hooks, toggles, combs, game pieces, dice, inlay and other personal ornaments.

Ivory has been valued since ancient times in art or manufacturing for making a range of items from ivory carvings to false teeth, piano keys, fans, and dominoes.[9] Elephant ivory is the most important source, but ivory from mammoth, walrus, hippopotamus, sperm whale, orca, narwhal and warthog are used as well.[10][11] Elk also have two ivory teeth, which are believed to be the remnants of tusks from their ancestors.[12]

The national and international trade in natural ivory of threatened species such as African and Asian elephants is illegal.[13] The word ivory ultimately derives from the ancient Egyptian âb, âbu ("elephant"), through the Latin ebor- or ebur.[14]