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Boho Ivory & Bone Jewelry — How To Identify Ivory?

Went to a local antique store today, looking for jewelry. I ended up buying a ton of bohemian style ivory, amber, bone & horn pieces. Most will end up on my web site since eBay has now banned ivory from listings.

How can you identify ivory versus bone?

Ivory normally has a finer appearance than bone. It will have fewer marks and striations in the material. Sometimes with bone you can see with the naked eye some cracks, black lines, pits, etc. See the lines in the bone on the bottom bangle? Ivory would not have these lines.

If you look at ivory with a loupe, it may show a slight grain or cross-hatching in the material on back.

There is a “hot pin test” for ivory. True ivory is virtually impenetrable with heat and so will not be damaged by this test. Take a needle or a straightened-out safety pin and heat it until it is red-hot. In an unobtrusive spot on the piece, poke it. If the piece is true ivory, there will not be a hole and there will be a tiny mark. Smell the spot. It should smell like burnt protein (burnt hair). Bone is also resistant to heat, but not as much as ivory. It will not put out the same strong smell as ivory.

Bone is not free of grain and will have little “pock marks” in it where the marrow or blood was. You may have to use a loupe to see these pock marks.

Ivory can yellow over time.