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Ivory Preservation


#1

I have a number of customers with older pieces of ivory carvings
that are heavier and thicker than most. After some years sitting in
the dry climate here in west Texas, they are developing cracks here
and there. Is there any good way to prevent, restore or repair these
cracks? Appreciate your advice. tks


#2

Jon – go to a website called www.uncommonconglomerates.com/ and
take a look at their products in the line they call paleo bond.
There are a number of materials that they make the help archeologists
join and fill in fossil structure; this includes looking like the
fossils they are used in. This may be just the right stuff. The
owner of the company is very helpful to talk to and available for
questions.

Laura.
@LWiesler


#3

Jon, Ivory is tricky material to care for in that it is composed of
both organic and inorganic substance. It is anisotripic, meaning
that , like wood, it absorbs and gives off moisture depending upon
the relative humidity of its environment. It grows in layers much
like the growth rings of a tree. Unfortunately, these rings will
expand and contract at different rates and this leads to
delamination/cracking. The only way to prevent this is to avoid big
swings in relative humidity, especially low humidity. Anything below
30% (as I’m sure it is often in Texas) is especially damaging. You
should also avoid getting it wet for the same reasons. Strong light
and heat should also be avoided. It also absorbs skin oils, makeup,
etc readily and stains. The inorganic framework of ivory is
destroyed by acids.

Once it is cracked there isn’t much you can do. The best thing
would be to get it into a more stable environment. If they are
especially valuable, your customers may want to have a special
exhibit case that is sealed (a micro-climate could be created in the
enclosure using silica gel products that can be conditioned to
specific RH levels).

Some curio shops up here put glasses of distilled water in their
cases thinking it will prevent cracking. Since the cases aren’t
sealed well, I seriously doubt that it does anything more than make
them feel better.

One thing I wouldn’t do is try to fill the cracks or “repair” them.
First, it will greatly affect their value unless done by a
professional conservator. Secondly, if you put them back into the
same climate, the cracking will continue and be assisted by the
"wedges" used to fill the existing cracks.

Again, if they really want them “repaired” consult with a
professional conservator. You can get references from any major
museum or art gallery. I, however, would spend my money on getting
an enclosure made or somehow otherwise improve the environment they
are in and consider the cracks part of the piece’s history. The
cracks will no doubt be less evident once they are placed in an
environment with a proper humidity level.

Chris Hanson
Abo Originals
Ketchikan, AK

PS.: My “real career” is a museum curator of collection. If you have any
other questions feel free to ask.


#4

dearJon

1 Never expose to any type of heat unless the ivory is in a plastic
bag,sealed, and even then,no heat!,or cold!!

2 Basically, while ivory is in your posession, never take out of a
plastic bag, or keep it coated with paint, preferably spirit
based, clear is good

  1. But, on the other hand, the cracks make the distinctive aged look

4.Gel, isocyanacrylate in the crack, then pour finely powered ivory
on top, or wait until almost dry and start sanding with 220 grit
until crack is filled on top with hardened ivory dust,reapply and
sand again if not filled completely

  1. I have always sanded ivory down to 320 and then polish with white
    diamond

dp


#5
    I have a number of customers with older pieces of  ivory
carvings that are heavier and thicker than most. After some years
sitting in the dry climate here in west Texas, they are developing
cracks here and there. Is there any good way to prevent, restore or
repair these cracks? Appreciate your advice. tks 

Ivory is of course, an organic material, and has grain, similar to
wood. Also like wood, it expands and contracts with changes in
humidity, and is prone to splitting if it is subjected to too dry an
environment. The only solution to prevent cracking is to control the
humidity in which it is stored. In museums, ivory objects are often
displayed in cases with a small cup of water to keep the humidity up.
If these are important pieces, they could be stored in a humidity
controlled box, like a cigar humidifier. Once cracks have developed,
the only real solution is to raise the humidity, and the cracks
should close up. Cracks in ivory should not be glued, and especially
not filled with a solid filler, because when the piece is again in
higher humidity, the filling in the crack will split the ivory in new
places. It is possible to fill cracks with colored wax, but it too
can cause problems if it gets too hot and bleeds into the ivory. It’s
better to try to control the environment for the pieces.

Jack Reisland
Reisland Conservation, LLC


#6

I think the question was about old finished pieces. I which case
wax and oil would be the best. Along with no heat and high
humidity. Will take exception, dp, with the white diamond though. I
have found the hard way that buffers and ivory are a bad
combination. the heat that is generated causes tiny cracks in the
surface of the ivory. So I sand clear to 600 then hand buff with
felt or cotton wrapped around sticks and wax. Thirty years later
this has proven much better. Last week I saw a piece that I made
without power buffing and sold in '73 and it was in great shape.
Some that I did with the buffer are showing pretty bad worsening of
the surface cracking. Tom


#7

ivory preservation, why wouldn’t beeswax lightly applied protect
from drying out or further damage?