Ivory Portraits and busts were often commissioned by royalty and the noble class in Europe. Ivory workshops in France, England and Germany many numerous masterpieces, from Emperor Augutus (c. 27 BC-14 AD)
to Sir Isaac Newton (1718).
While some portraits were created as miniatures, out of a single tusk, others were life-size, made out of multiple tusks and placed upon pedastals of onyx, wood or marble.
Unlike most ivory carvings, whose carvers remain anonymous, many ivory portraits and busts are signed by their makers. The mojaority of ivory portraits were made from 1600 to 1800.
Ivory portraits and busts are now incredibly valuable and are conserved in the collections of major collections such as the Victoria & Albert Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Before combs were cheaply manufactures in plastic or metal, they were handcrafted out of various materials. Ivory combs were made by early civilizations, and were hand carved for centuries around the world.
Some of the earliest combs date back 5000 years to Persia. In addition to the standard used of the comb (i.e. hair and fiber grooming) combs were also used to make music. The comb is capable of producing
humming sounds when used like a harmonica, and thumb piano sounds, when strummed with fingers.
Ancient ivory combs were often double sided. While one side would have smaller, thinner tines and the other side would have larger, stronger ones. The surface are of the ivory would often portray religious
scenes, or intricate floral patterns.
Ivory liturgical combs are now extremely valuable artifacts, boasted by collectors of medieval and ancient art.
Ivory Snuff Bottles were widely utilized in China during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912). At this time smoking tobacco was prohibited, which led to the rise in popularity of snuff, a powdered form of tobacco.
By the 18th century, snuff was used among all social classes in China, though the type of snuff bottle remained an indicator of wealth and stature.
Snuff bottles were made out of jade, shell, glass, porcelain, wood, ceramic and ivory. The ivory snuff bottles were often carved or painted with narrative scenes or ornate designs. The ivory snuff bottles
are almost always carved out of elephant tusk. The tops of the bottles are attached to a small spoon, used to apply the snuff.
In 16th century Europe, snuff consumers used a similar, box-shaped vessel to store their snuff. These boxes, like the snuff bottles, became status symbols for the borgious to show off to their friends.
Replicas of snuff bottles are still made, and original antique bottles continue to increase in value.
Intricately carved mystery balls (also called Chinese puzzle balls) have been carved since ancient times. The balls consist of concentrically carved spheres that vary in size and number. Each sphere contains a windowed pattern, revealing the complexity
of the inner spheres. While antique ivory mystery balls are among the most precious, other versions have been carved out of jade, soapstone, wood and "Hong Kong Ivory" (a synthetic ivory created out of ground
and compressed bone). Antique ivory versions were often accompanied by a carved pedestal, which served to hold and display each mystery ball.
Traditional Chinese mystery balls were carved with a variety of patterns, including dragons, phoenix, flower, peach blossoms and birds. The number of layers usually runs between three and seven, but has
reached up to forty-two layers.
The process of making a mystery ball is quite complex and begins with turning a solid ball on a lathe. The ball is then drilled into and reworked with numerous hand-tools. The two strongest, outermost balls
are often fused together to prevent the more fragile inner balls from breaking.
Mystery balls continue to be made in modern times, but are mainly made out of synthetic, imitation ivory.