Ivory substitutes

was: Preparation of cow bone for carving

Hi Guys,

Excuse me whilst I hijack the cow bone thread :wink:

Speaking of substitutes for ivory… does anyone have a good

So far I have :-

  1. Plastic: Eww.
  2. Tagua nuts: They are small, really hard, and a nightmare to slice.
  3. Cow bone: Suggested above, didn’t think of using it.
  4. Old pianos: Very thin pieces.
  5. Sanctioned ivory: We really can’t get this in Australia.
  6. Mammoth ivory: Really expensive, and a funny colour.
  7. Walrus tusk: Bought from legitimate sources
  8. Walrus penis bone: Not a chance me touching that.
  9. Micarta: Resin and paper.
  10. Fimo, manufactured in a spaghetti press
    (there’s a bit more to it)

and the last one I’ve investigated didn’t work for me.

  1. Boiling potato in sulphuric acid: I was assured that this would
    work, although was lacking, and I was left with
    sulphuric acid and potato soup.

Does anyone know how to make the ivory substitute from potatoes, or
can suggest another alternative?

Regards Charles A.

Speaking of substitutes for ivory... does anyone have a good

I was at an auction recently where they auctioned off 4 tusks in 2
lots. I suspect the price was low, but I don’t know enough about it.

Searching for ivory substitute using Google, I did come across
mention of but no real recipe for turning a potato into an
ivory-like substance. From both a sculpture forum and one for knife
makers, I found strong recommendations for Elforyn:

Christine, up too early in Littleton MA USA

Google ‘CASEIN’ It is a plastic made from milk and other natural
ingredients, soy etc and formaldehyde, I think the plastic was
referred to as Caseinite and was used for knife handles in the 19th
and early 20th century. however I don’t know how it carves. In a 19th
century encyclopaedia looking up ‘vegetable ivory’ there is a south
American palm from the Andes that produces a very hard nut. suitable
for carving, probably a useless bit of info.

David, Australia

i have alunite a natural material from i dug years ago also known as
earth ivory, i also some place have a piece of ivory color magnasite
from calif, keith ludemann, ludemann’s lapidary

Here’s one that was used in Victorian times- boar’s tusk. Quality is
variable according to species of pig and limits the size of your
work but you cant have everything. In the UK you need a licence to
rework old ivory (my uncle has one) but I can suggest a couple of
sources. Snooker and billiard balls, chess pieces, old umbrella or
walking cane handles. These all tend to be fairly chunky and low cost
being frequently found in odd lots at auctions and garage sales.

Nick Royall

We have a good friend that is now semi retired. He is from China and
imports many jewelry items such as beads and carved bone. He is to
us an expert. In fact, we were reading 20+ year old Lapidary Journals
at his last visit and he was showing us different national suppliers
advertisements that he help get started. As for ivory versus bone, he
told us that it is difficult to tell the difference. Bone carvings
from China are quite cheap. After it is carved, a little tea will
"age" the bone to give it an old look. In fact, Susan told him that
she wanted a carved turquoise bead necklace. After he gave it to her,
he asked please don’t ask again because it took him 2 years to find
enough rough of the same color to make the necklace. It is beautiful
though. Hope it helps.

Rick & Sue

Casein is the glue the Egyptians used, that could be a go.

The nut you are referring to is a Tagua nut, relatively small, and
when you cut them on a bandsaw they can rocket out like bullets.

Regards Charles A.
P.S. Where in Oz are you David?

You might want to consider faux bone which is a product from Robert
Dancik - www.fauxbone.com It is very versitile and can be used to
create many different looks.


Speaking of substitutes for ivory... does anyone have a good

In addition to the Elforyn, I forgot to mention boxwood and
soapstone. Boxwood is evidently used for netsuke in place of ivory.
Soapstone is very soft.


Have looked into using Faux bone. It is PVC sheets that come a
variety of thicknesses that can be carved, sanded, and colored. Here
is the website http://www.fauxbone.com/

Cin Hollins

Antlers make great sculpture with their varied shapes. They are hard
and pretty. Check on freecycle and craigslist for antlers for sale
or give away. Don’t soak them in water for any long period of time
because it changes the color a bit.

Pat Gebes

OK, as long as we are going as far as boxwood then I’ll throw in my
2 cents worth.

Holly wood - very ivory-like including the same subtle grain pattern
as seen in true ivory. Very hard, dense, ivory-like in color etc.

Good luck.
Marty - who used to be in Hollywood but now a Canajun

I think Faux Bone is just PVC in a “convenient” sheet and tube form.

Tony Konrath

Depending upon what your end goal is, there is Sea Bamboo (a coral,
excellent for carving, color of ivory; only draw back is that a tiny
hole runs through the middle of the material) and Ivoryite (a jasper
which is the color of ivory).

Dikra Gem Inc

Since ivory is nothing other than tooth enamel from an animal
source, then couldn’t discarded human milk (baby) teeth also be
considered ivory?

To render them safe (as in eradicating HIV) said teeth could be
soaked in a mild bleach solution for 24 hours?

Maybe, the Tooth Fairy needs a raise!

Andrew Jonathan Fine

I think Faux Bone is just PVC in a "convenient" sheet and tube

Ah yes, but which PVC? Someone posted previously on Orchid that
they thought Faux Bone was a product called Sinatra. Well, guess,
what, I ordered some, and it’s not. Not at all.

So I don’t know what it is, but Robert has come up with a good
product and we should support him by buying it from him.


One good substitute for ivory is pigs tusk. Some of the large boars
grow very large tusks which can be carved and polished… they polish
up beautifully. What used to be a good source and probably still is,
believe it or not is at any livestock auction pens where pigs are
sold. The tusks are usually cut off the boars prior to trucking in
order to prevent them from goring each other in transit. The tusks
themselves are usually discarded and can be picked up for nothing.

John Bowling

Since ivory is nothing other than tooth enamel from an animal
source, then couldn't discarded human milk (baby) teeth also be
considered ivory? 

Well, I did read that hippo teeth are also used as sources of ivory.
Presumably, hippos have very large teeth…

i found the best substitute for ivory is tagua nut;nice to carve,
nice texture and color

regards lourdes silva

Hello, Charles. “Jarina” is what we use when substituting ivory, here
in Brazil. It is a seed from a palm that has the color of ivory and
it is smooth enough for carving images. If you type “jarina” in
Google Images, you will see lots of images. You might try to get
samples of it there in Australia, in stores that sell imported stones
and fossiles. Best regards, Evelise.

Evelise Gonsales Pimenta Azimonte