Antler-horn -ivory and teeth

Ok, so here is one for you all on this thread.

The local elk farmers regularly cut the horns off the Bull elk for
safety to the animals. The elk looses its horns ( which is shed
naturally by the bull in the fall )and the remaining part of the
horns that is still attatched to the skull falls to the ground. I
have been working with a couple elk farmers to get these buttons and
have now a steady source of these. This is a fantastic piece of
materials to work with. I am only now just getting some time to do
something with this materials, but it is easily worked, I have in my
posession about 10 “buttons” that are the shed antler from farmed

I also have the antler that they cut off! A steady source for my
carving! Finally!!

Also Elk do not have upper teeth, but have 2 of a sort of "ivory"
like substance that is small but I have seen a ring set in silver
with this mounted and it looked like Ivory to me.

There are only 2 of these on each animal, and they can only be
removed when PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) get to eat them!

The one source I have secured has about 185 bull elk that has to be
dehorned every year. Slightly less than that get processed for
customers every year.

I have pictures available for anyone wanting to experiment with this
materials instead of trying to get ivory. I should be able to get
more “buttons” this spring when I get out into the pastures with the
animals. ( I know my food source!)

I did some work on securing ivory for my inlays, it is a hassle more
than it is worth. I still have legal shipments of piano keys tied up
in the US after a year of CIDAW clearance work. If I was a piano
maker, it would be a lot easier that is for sure, but my name is not
Bl�thner ( who now makes their keys out of Acrylics)

There is an enviromentally concious and tasty alternative to this
readily available.

Cheers… Tim Randles
Edmonton Alberta

Tim- A female friend of mine is and avid hunter from Colorado. She
has a whole collection of Elk tooth jewelry. The tooth is bezel set
in yellow gold and is accented with diamonds. It really make for a
wonderful look. Good luck, and have fun “playing” with you new media!


Tim, The elk farmers here in Colorado sell the antlers when they
are in ‘velvet’, {they still have a velvet like membrane on them
during the growing process every year}. They are sold by the pound
to be ground and used for various ailments, one of which is arthritis
and it is said to be very effective. Just a bit of elk trivia for
you! The mature antler can be used to make some attractive things, I
have seen many knife handles made from them, some with beautiful
schrimshaw work. Michael

Dear Tim, thanks for the pictures. This is strange looking material.
Can you give some idea how you work it and if it works and polishes
like bone or ivory? I will get back on the mail. Do the "buttons"
work pretty much like antler material? Any info will be helpful to me
and to others here, I am sure.


I have a client who brought me two “elk ivory” teeth in their raw
form (her husband brought them back from a hunting trip). I’ve seen
some wonderful finished pieces with this material, and my plans are
to do two bezel set pendants for her and her daughter. But I’m not
experienced in how to prepare the elk ivory in terms of cutting,
shaping, and polishing. How do I do this? They have a wonderful ring
pattern on the top, but the “root” of the tooth is all still there.
They are just as her husband removed them from the animal. Sorry if
this was already explained. I couldn’t find it, but I may have
missed that part of the thread. Thanks so much. …ginger

ginger meek allen Little Cottage Studio one woman…in her laundry
room…hammering and soldering…while her children sleep
Wake Forest, NC, USA

Ginger, The elks teeth you are referring to are generally called
"whistlers" . At least that’s what they are called here in Kodiak
Al;aska. To prepare them for mounting simply cut the lower part off
across the long axis of the tooth with a jeweler’s saw making a
sort of cabochon and set as you would a stone. Polishing is not
really necessary as the elk has done it for you, although it
wouldn’t hurt to give it a final buffing after setting. I’m sure
someone has done it at one time or another, but I have never seen
the tooth used whole. The root is not particularly attractive and
if it were to be set as a pendant, root and all, the patterned end
would be on the bottom and not really visible. Having said that, I
have seen them used as watch chain ornaments bearing the insignia
of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. These have had most
of the root cut off and then been capped with a fairly wide gold
cap which was probably cast from a wax individually made for the
tooth. Jerry in Kodiak

Ginger leave the tooth the way it is except to polish it. Make a wax
cap and cast it, you will have two great pedants. Lloyd.

    I'm sure someone has done it at one time or another, but I have
never seen the tooth used whole. 

A talented associate in Wyoming does use whole teeth for carvings.
Wyoming, Montana and Utah have lots of elk hunters, so we’re quite
often called upon to do elk ivory settings. This associate uses the
roots for inlay, as well as carving them into flowers, free forms,
etc. for ornamentation. The most beautiful one he created was out of
a whole tooth, and was a lovely lady kneeling at the edge of a forest
pool, reaching out to a lotus flower, which had a small diamond set
in the center of the blossom. Very sculptural in liliputian detail.

On antlers, those in the deer family (elk, moose) shed their horns
every year naturally, complete with the buttons. The Boy Scouts of
America are allowed to gather up the sheds legally. What they do with
them all, I don’t know. But you may contact the national organization
to see if they sell them. They are wonderful material for carving, as
they are really dense and fine grains, if working with the outside
part or the buttons. Excellent detail can be achieved.

I have a couple of questions to pose regarding the use of
materials from wild animals (and/or plants such as vegetable ivory).
Do we know that the source is sustainable and that the animals are
being killed for some other reason like food or sanctioned hunting?
Are we creating or expanding a market for these products that will
help to promote poaching for profit? I believe strongly that we need
to consider these kinds of questions because it makes no sense to
contribute to the degradation of our world (like precious metal
mining) while we sit back and create objects of beauty. I’d be
interested in any feed back.

The Boy Scouts of America are allowed to gather up the sheds
legally. What they do with them all, I don't know. 

I spent the Christmas holidays in Jackson Hole Wyoming, where there
is a large elk preserve, where the animals congregate during the
winter, and are supplied with food, and from which they then move
back up into their mountain ranges in the spring. Tours get run into
the preserve via horse drawn wagons, a popular tourist trip, and
since amonst our group were my brothers two young toddlers, and a
couple others who weren’t on the slopes skiing, we took this trip.
One of the comments was about the annual collection of the antlers by
the scouts, and apparently at least here, the antlers collected are
not kept by the scouts, but are then auctioned off each spring, with
the proceeds used to help support the costs of running the preserve,
and other conservation efforts in the area. I have no idea, of
course, if the same holds true in other locations.


Hello all.

Richard, I think you asked a good question Re: ethics of using bone
as a consumable. I don’t usually post, but since I am a bone
carver, I feel it’s OK to say that not very many people pursue
Antler as a carving material, so it’s probably safe. It’s much
harder than wood and much much harder to get. I find mine at flea
markets. I’ve driven past trading shops in the Rockies and seen the
antler sheds stacked up outside, hundreds and hundreds of them
rotting in the sun and rain. I like to think of turning all that
waste into beautiful things.

By the way, I usually don’t use much in the way of compound, but
rather give it a nice coat of beeswax on a dedicated muslin buff.
Don’t do much to prepare it either. The natural material has lots
of inherent strength and durability. Just in case, tho, my husband
has an antler tip carving that I did years ago and which he wears
every day. It still looks like it did 10 years ago. Every 3 years
or so I give it another coat of wax. And, by the way, I have had
some problems carving in the softer and porous marrow. Every bone
is different and with quite a few it is no problem at all. You
won’t know until you cut into it.


I keep telling people but you refuse to believe me…If you don’t have
permits to have any part of a protected animal you can be fined for
having , using and/or selling said part…I have a permit that I have
to renew every year to have these animals and I have a
reason…educational use. I can not leave a feather behind at my
vets…You have to have a permit to harvest any of these animals. Alot
of these farmers that are harvesting horn buds are doing so illegally
and not only is it illegal for them to sell these pieces it is
extremely cruel to harvest a horn bud or an antler but they do
it because they’re making big money…why Cause it’s illegal… It’s
black market.


You pose some very excellent environmentally related questions.
However, let me give you one example as relates to deer antler.

Last summer my wife and I were visiting her cousin in PA. Her
cousin’s husband has been an avid hunter since he was a kid and, as I
was planning on creating some gem stone knives, I ask him if he had
any deer antlers around that I might use for handles. He jumped up
and told me that he had a whole big box of them that he was trying to
decide what to do with. I left his house with 13 beautiful
’racks’…all legally taken. He is just one PA hunter. Multiply that
by hundreds and you will get some idea how much antler material is
out there waiting for some artisan to come along. I also am aware of
the explosion of the deer population throughout the NE US. Many
localities are considering extended hunting seasons just to achieve
some control over the population. I have no hard facts, but doubt if
there is much reason to poach deer…at least not for their antler

Perhaps some of our western US members can comment in a similar
fashion about the elk/moose population.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where it is
becoming a bitter cold 40 deg and where simple elegance IS fine
jewelry! @coralnut1

 keep telling people but you refuse to believe me..If you don't
have permits to have any part of a protected animal you can be

Yes… but elk and deer are not protected animals. I do believe you,
but I don’t see what relevance it has to this conversation. We’re not
talking about bald eagle antlers here…

Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Lisa, I don’t know where you live, but here in Alaska antlers from
Moose, Elk, Caribou, Deer are perfectly legal to buy and sell. They
may be taken from legally killed animals, farmed animals and shed
antlers which can be picked up along river drainages in the Spring
before the new grass grows. Eskimo reiindeer {Caribou) herders in
Northwest Alaska harvest the antlers each year while they are still
in the velvet by sawing them from the living animal. They are then
sold to buyers from Asia where they are believed to be useful in
traditional medicines. This is a legal trade, not black market.
Look in any outdoor equipment catalog and you will see knives with
antler handles advertised. The crowns, or rosettes, or whatever
other name they may be given, that is the portion directly attached
to the skull, are not taken from the living animal, but are removed
after the amimal has been harvested. Parts of other game animals,
Brown Bears for example, may not be sold. Ivory from marine
mammals, walrus, whales, etc. comes under the Marine Animal
Protection act and may be sold only by Alaska natives after it has
been made into traditional native handicrafts. Once it has been
legally sold by a native however it may be resold I don’t know what
you mean by “protected species”, but I know of no place in the
United States where antlered game is ":protected’ as such. Certainly
there areas where no hunting is allowed, national parks, etc. But
that is protection of an area, not a species. Jerry in Kodiak

Hi All, I have done hundreds of fine jewelry pieces with Elk Ivory.
They are very stunning and unique. I have a store on the borders of
Utah, Nevada and Idaho and I see allot of Elk Ivories. there are many
different ways to handle Elk Ivories and like everything there are
some that are treated and enhance out there. I have done wedding
sets, gents jewelry,tennis bracelets you name it. People love them.
Yes it is true a few states will not allow there use but just a few
fall into this. These are beautiful animals and most folks that hunt
them very much respect them. Anyhow If you ever what more info
about using them I can help. Cordially, Chip Stone Elko, Nevada

    I keep telling people but you refuse to believe me..If you
don't have permits to have any part of a protected animal you can
be fined for having , using and/or selling said part..I have a
permit that I have to renew every year to have these animals and I
have a reason..educational use. I can not leave a feather behind at
my vets..You have to have a permit to harvest any of these animals.
Alot of these farmers that are harvesting horn buds are doing so
illegally and not only is it illegal for them to sell these pieces
it is extremely cruel to harvest a horn bud or an antler but they
do it because they're making big money..why Cause it's illegal..
It's >black market. 

Ok, you are correct that protected species have restrictions. No
one disputes that. But, not every North American elk and antelope
species is protected. The simplest way to be certain is to check
with your local fish and game authority. A very good primer on the
subject can be found on the US Fish and Wildlife site at the
following address:

I am more hobbyist than commercial artisan, but I do make sure that
the source of the horn, antler, and bone that I use for my work is
legal. It’s not hard, especially in this day and age of electronic
communication to get such a simple question answered.

Ron Charlotte – Gainesville, FL
@Ron_Charlotte1 OR

Hi Gang, For those concerned about the legality of using body parts
of wild animals & birds in jewelry & art objects a good source of
is your State Game & Fish or Wildlife Dept. They’re
usually responsible for the management of the wildlife resources of
the states & are knowledgeable about permits required to posess or
use items/parts of items in their area of concern. Many states have
Game Wardens or other officers in areas around the state. A look in
the phone directory should point you in the right direction. A seach
of the web may also produce the results you’re looking for.

The elk preserve Peter Rowe referred to in Jackson Hole, Wyoming is
the National Elk Refuge. It was created in 1912, but the practice of
feeding the elk during winter was started in the 1880s by the local
ranchers. (I am a fifth generation native of Teton County Wyoming,
although I no longer reside there) In autumn the elk begin migrating
down to the refuge from three mountain ranges, including Yellowstone
National Park, 50 miles to the north. In the 1960s the congregation
often numbered more than 10,000 animals, and it was at that time the
largest herd of Wapiti Elk in North America. The antlers on the refuge
belong exclusively to the Boy Scouts, they are collected each spring
and auctioned off by lots. During the 70s and 80s most of the antler
was purchased by Asian apothecary merchants for use in traditional
herbal medicine preparations.

More info about the National Elk Refuge is available at:

Michael David Sturlin, jewelry artist @Michael_David_Sturl2
Yahoo | Mail, Weather, Search, Politics, News, Finance, Sports & Videos 480.941.4105 Scottsdale,

I hope I am not being paranoid, but I wish to inject one additional
note of concern over the question of using bone, teeth or antlers.

Because of the location of some recreational land I own in
Wisconsin, I have become aware of the existence of Chronic Wasting
Disease. It has spread to the deer population in the midwest, and
is, as I understand it, found in populations of elk in the west.
This disease is related to mad cow disease, and cannot be
"sanitized" out of anything short of incinerating at very high heat.
I don’t know whether it can be passed through bone materials, but
would seem to be another reason to be careful about using bone, etc,
from susceptible species.

I hope somebody out there knows whether there really is any danger.
This disease doesn’t effect humans (so far) but thousands of animals
have been slaughtered and incinerated in Wisconsin in an effort to
avoid spreading the pathogen. Maybe this just means you shouldn’t
sell antler jewelry to any elks! Noel